Meet Our Wilf Scholars
Established through a generous gift by the Wilf Family Foundations, the Wilf Impact Scholars Program selects an annual cohort of New York Law School students who bring diversity, talent, and dedication to public interest careers.
From the time they enter law school, Wilf Scholars are immersed in the world of public interest practice, benefitting from NYLS’s specialized public interest advising, gaining connections to public interest practitioners and alumni, working closely with faculty and staff involved in real-world cutting-edge social justice issues, and developing the skills needed to excel in their careers.
Class of 2024
Hailing from Vernon Hills, Illinois, Jenna Aasen ’24 received her undergraduate degree in education from Butler University. During her time at Butler, Aasen worked in Indianapolis public schools teaching elementary school students. At these schools, her passion to assist students beyond the classroom grew, and she decided to apply to law school. She hopes to combine this passion with her interest in the law to do public interest work in education in the future. Aasen interned her first summer of law school with the New York City Department of Social Services, Support and Lien Recovery Litigation-Child Support Enforcement Unit. As a 2L, she participated in the Education Law Clinic and was a Junior Staff Editor of the New York Law School Law Review. She spent her second summer with the New York City Law Department in their Family Court Division, and she will return there as an attorney upon graduation.
Syma Birenbaum ’24 came to law school determined to enter the public sector. She previously had a career in production lighting design for live events, theater, dance, and opera; however, she always felt a calling to pursue a career where she could advocate professionally for equality and justice. She holds a B.F.A. from Purchase College. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Birenbaum has lived in New York City for several years now and is excited to be attending law school in the city she has come to care about so deeply. She aspires to become a judge to help shape state and federal legal systems for the benefit of future generations. During her first summer of law school, Birenbaum interned with the New York City Criminal Court, and she taught high school students at the Charter School for Law and Social Justice. As a 2L, she participated in the Immigration Law and Litigation Clinic in the fall and the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic in the spring. As a 3L, Birenbaum is participating in the Pro Bono Scholars Program, and she will be placed at the Urban Justice Center’s Free to Be Youth Project. She is also a Senior Staff Editor of the New York Law School Law Review.
Michelle Blaifeder ’24 is from New York City where, as a Queens native, she learned about the importance of community and helping those in need. Blaifeder attended Binghamton University, where she obtained a B.S. in human development and a B.A. in political science. She decided to go to law school because she felt the law was the best tool for making a difference in the lives of others, and she chose NYLS because of the School’s public interest program and wide array of clinical offerings. She is passionate about all things public interest law, including housing, education, labor and employment, and LGBTQ+ rights. During her 1L summer, Blaifeder interned with the Medicare Rights Center. As a 2L, she participated in the yearlong Housing Rights Clinic with a placement at Manhattan Legal Services. This past summer, Blaifeder interned with the New York State Department of Financial Services. She currently works as a Research Assistant for Professor Andrew Scherer, and is pursuing opportunities to work with affordable housing policy after graduation.
Blanca Gates ’24 studied criminal justice at the University of New Haven, which set her on the path to law school. Shortly after completing her undergraduate studies, Gates started working for Project Reset at the Center for Court Innovation (CCI). While at CCI, she was involved with the Race and Justice Council, and she helped to organize community events and to develop pilot programs that would be implemented in the community. Through her work, she became increasingly interested in public interest law—specifically public defense work. Originally from Altoona, Pennsylvania, she is also interested in civil and human rights policy work, both locally and internationally. Gates currently serves as the Vice President of Social Action for MetroLALSA, the regional organization for Latin American Law Student Association. In summer 2022, Gates was selected for the ABA Judicial Intern Opportunity Program, interning with Hon. Sarah Netburn, U.S. Magistrate Judge of the Southern District of New York. As a 2L, she participated in the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic in the fall and the Legislative Advocacy Clinic with the New York Civil Liberties Union in the spring. She spent this past summer interning in the criminal defense practice at Brooklyn Defenders. She will be a New York State Pro Bono Scholar in the spring of her 3L year, with a placement at Federal Defenders of New York.
Sarah Hannah ’24 is a South Carolina native who relocated to New York City to pursue her passion of child advocacy. Hannah studied psychology and child advocacy at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She has held a number of positions ensuring that children receive important social services, including education and health care. She interned with the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office as well as with the Spartanburg, South Carolina Village Legal Hub, which were both influential experiences in leading her to law school. This past summer, Hannah interned with Catholic Charities NYC. As a 2L, Hannah served as a Staff Editor for the ABA Family Law Quarterly and competed with the NYLS Dispute Resolution Team. During her 2L summer, Hannah interned with Lawyers for Children. As a 3L, she is a member of the Education Law Clinic at NYLS.
Laura Katz ’24 received her B.A. from Brandeis University, and her post-undergraduate work was centered in the nonprofit sector. Seeing the many ways that marginalized individuals are disadvantaged when interacting with criminal legal systems, she hopes to use her legal knowledge to help marginalized communities achieve justice. After her 1L year, Katz interned with the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice, helping asylum seekers in their journey towards legal status. During her 2L year, she participated in the yearlong Housing Rights Clinic with a placement at Manhattan Legal Services and remained there over the summer as an intern. As a 3L, she currently works as a Research Assistant for Professor Andrew Scherer and is interested in pursuing a career in housing justice.
Michael Anthony Lucatorto ’24 is working to advocate for parents and children of non-traditional families. Growing up with two gay moms showed Lucatorto firsthand the daily struggles nontraditional families face in having their familial and personal identities acknowledged by the law. He aspires to be a family law attorney to represent members of nontraditional families during times of family crisis. Outside his studies, Lucatorto works at the Law Offices of Irene Angelakis, P.C, where he regularly assists New York City families through divorce and family court proceedings. After his 1L year, Lucatorto interned with Sanctuary for Families. In the fall of his 2L year, he had an externship with the New York County District Attorney’s Office, and in the spring, he participated in the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic. Lucatorto also serves as a Staff Editor for the ABA Family Law Quarterly. He will be a New York State Pro Bono Scholar in the spring of his 3L year, with a placement with Sanctuary for Families. After graduation, Lucatorto has accepted an offer to work as an Assistant District Attorney with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Alexandra Ogunsanya ’24 is a proud New Mexican, born and raised in Albuquerque. A graduate of the University of New Mexico, she previously worked at the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center helping immigrants apply for citizenship, green card renewals, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Ogunsanya is very interested in social and racial justice and how the law can work to effect change for marginalized communities. After her 1L year, Ogunsanya was selected for the Just the Beginning Fellowship and interned with Hon. James L. Cott, U.S. Magistrate Judge of the Southern District of New York. As a 2L, she participated in the yearlong Civil Rights and Disability Clinic. She spent her summer working with The Legal Aid Society’s Special Litigation Unit of the Criminal Defense Practice. She is spending her third year of law school as the Editor in Chief of the ABA Family Law Quarterly.
Ron Jovi Ramirez ’24 earned his B.A. in mathematics and philosophy of law from Lewis University. After graduating, he spent two years in the Lasallian Volunteers program operating a tutoring center and teaching math classes. After this, he obtained his M.S.Ed in elementary and special education from Manhattan College. He then taught math at St. Raymond’s High School for Boys before shifting his focus to education outside the classroom in a higher education setting. His passion for public interest began during the Lasallian Volunteer program and grew during his time in the classroom as Ramirez saw firsthand the discrepancies in how schools taught their students; discrepancies that were exacerbated by differences in funding and other resources. He hopes to grow and explore areas in which he can use his legal education to help his surrounding communities. As a 1L, Ramirez was selected for the New York City Bar Diversity Fellowship, which he participated in over that summer. As a 2L, Ramirez externed with the City Bar Justice Center, working with families in shelters, and he competed on the Trial Competition Team. In his 3L year, he is externing with the New York City Comptroller’s Office.
Gianna Vitiello ’24 is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn. Vitiello has an undergraduate background in psychology, sociology, and philosophy with a degree from Brooklyn College. She interned in the 2nd Judicial District with a family and criminal court judge during the summer of 2021. Vitiello previously was trained to work with those struggling with mental health issues. Over her 1L summer, Vitiello interned with the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office. As a 2L, Vitiello served as Junior Staff Editor for the ABA Family Law Quarterly and as a Teaching Assistant for Torts. This past summer, she interned with a matrimonial judge in Brooklyn Family Court.
Class of 2025
Becs Chant ’25 (she/they) grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in politics. Chant spent a semester in the Border Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona, which directed them towards immigration advocacy. After Oberlin, they worked at Catholic Social Services of Fall River in Massachusetts in the immigration legal services department as a paralegal and assisted attorneys by assembling application packets and preparing clients for interviews and court hearings. A former college track athlete and line cook, they love working on a team. During their 1L summer, Chant interned with The Door Legal Services Center and, as a 2L, is a member of the NYLS Asylum Clinic. After Chant’s 2L year, they will be interning with the Bronx Defenders Immigration Practice. Chant is interested in focusing their career on the intersection of criminal law and immigration.
Born in Queens and raised in Valley Stream, Long Island, Natalia Erazo ’25 was a double-major in psychology and criminal justice at the University of Hartford. After her undergraduate studies, she worked as a crisis case manager for the Department of Children and Families for impoverished families dealing with substance abuse and child neglect. Erazo is currently pursuing a dual-degree program with John Jay College of Criminal Justice to obtain a master’s degree in forensic psychology alongside her juris doctorate from NYLS. She is pursuing mental health law and has long-term plans to engage in international human rights work. After her 1L year, Erazo interned with Mental Hygiene Legal Service, representing, advocating, and litigating on behalf of individuals receiving services for a mental disability.
Ariana Hartnell ’25 is a New York native. She is a graduate of Columbia University and holds a B.A. in economics. While studying economics, she focused on social issues, including income inequality and housing problems. This sparked a desire to pursue a career where she could work for social change and help others. Hartnell knew that law school was the path forward. Upon graduation, she wants to use her law degree to advocate for others and is interested in pursuing a career in human rights law. After her 1L year, Hartnell interned with the Attorney Grievance Committee at the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division. As a 2L, she is a Junior Editor for the ABA Family Law Quarterly and for the New York Law School Law Review. She is also a clinic student in NYLS’s Congressional Consumer and Civil Justice Clinic.
Taylor Hein ’25 was born in Southern California and grew up in Western Colorado. She graduated from Chapman University with a B.A. in English literature, rhetoric, and cultural studies with minors in Holocaust history and disability studies. While attending Chapman University, Hein founded a student organization, The Spoonies, dedicated to supporting students with chronic illnesses. The organization quickly evolved into a community geared toward activism and advocacy for people with disabilities. Addressing experiences with ableism, inaccessibility, and discrimination inspired Hein to learn about the law and educate others about their rights. Motivated to explore a career in law, she became a Law Fellow with Loyola Law School’s Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy, and Innovation. In her first semester in law school, she became involved with social justice student groups and learned about how lawyering intersects with activism for marginalized groups. She is interested in the intersection between disability justice and housing law, employment law, and health law and policy. She spent her 1L summer interning with Mobilization for Justice in their Housing Rights Program and is currently interning with Hon. Kiyo A. Matsumoto, Senior District Judge for the Eastern District of New York. Hein serves as a Research Assistant for Professor Britney Wilson, with a focus on disability justice work.
Annie Jaffee ’25 is a native New Yorker who received her undergraduate degree in sociology and anthropology from Rhodes College. During her time at Rhodes, Jaffee had a three-year fellowship, where she worked closely with scholars around the world to write and publish an encyclopedia on race in America. After graduating from Rhodes, Jaffee worked at a voter mobilization firm and as a fact-checker at a journalism start-up. Through NYLS and the Wilf Scholars Program, she aspires to gain the tools necessary to advocate for and represent vulnerable people, with the objective of becoming a civil rights lawyer. After her 1L year, Jaffee interned with Human Rights First, working with attorneys representing asylum seekers. She is spending her 2L year as a clinic student in the Housing Rights Clinic at NYLS.
Ian Leighton ’25 received his B.A. from the University of Connecticut, where he studied political science and sociology. Prior to law school, Leighton worked as a paralegal for a criminal appellate public defender and taught at Holland Hill Elementary School in his hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut. He served as Editorial Chair for the Fairfield Equity Coalition and led a 50-member team of writers, data analysts, and graphic designers to complete the coalition’s report on promoting anti-racism and racial equity in Fairfield Public Schools, which he then co-presented to the Board of Education in a televised special session. His love of teaching and working with children brought him to NYLS, where he is pursuing a career at the intersection of public defense and child advocacy. After his 1L year, Leighton interned with The Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice, and he is participating in NYLS’s Education Law Clinic as a 2L. He will spend his 2L summer working with the Brooklyn Defender Services in their criminal defense practice.
Maya Moskowitz ’25 was born and raised in New York City and cares deeply about progressive policy and immigration advocacy. She previously served as Press Secretary to a New York state senator representing parts of the Bronx and Westchester, where she led all press, constituent communications, and digital strategies. Moskowitz also worked as an associate on the communications team at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), providing press and media support on a number of state and federal legislative campaigns to empower immigrant communities. Just prior to her 1L year, she returned to the NYIC as a consultant on the New York For All Act. Moskowitz graduated from Oberlin College in 2017 with a B.A. in politics and in peace and conflict studies, and she is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum. Following her 1L year, Moskowitz interned with the New York Civil Liberties Union. She is spending her 2L year in the Housing Rights Clinic, and after her 2L year, she will intern with the Bronx Defenders Civil Practice.
Mary Nasr ’25 is a proud New Jerseyan who graduated from the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University with a B.S. in marketing. In her sophomore year of undergraduate studies, she was a communications and policy intern with the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, which ignited her passion for immigration law. She witnessed the Let’s Drive NJ bill pass the state legislature in real time, and after seeing that success, she wanted to do more. In 2020, as a response to the murder of George Floyd, she organized with some old classmates to create a plan for how Woodbridge, New Jersey, could address police accountability and systemic racism. That June, she became a founding member of the Woodbridge Youth for Liberation and Equity (WYLE), a group of passionate young adults who are advocating for change right at home. She plans on tackling the intersection of immigration and racial disparities through the field of public defense. After her 1L year, she interned with the Federal Defender Organization, District of New Jersey. As a 2L, she is a member of the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic at NYLS.
Dakota Risi ’25 is a 2016 graduate of Florida State University with a B.A. in English. She spent two years before law school supervising case management staff for a residential substance abuse treatment program in a women and children’s facility. Risi is deeply committed to mental health advocacy and interned with Mental Hygiene Legal Service after her 1L year, representing, advocating, and litigating on behalf of individuals receiving services for a mental disability. As a 2L, she is externing with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. She is also a Junior Editor for the New York Law School Law Review.
Breanna Steggell ’25 received her B.A. in public policy and migration from Sarah Lawrence College. While there, she was awarded the Davis Projects for Peace Fellowship to conduct fieldwork and undergraduate research focused on statelessness in the Dominican Republic and Malaysia. After completing her undergraduate studies, Steggell worked as an organizer with Families for Freedom. While there, she organized the release of three community members from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, designed and facilitated the virtual membership development program, and led Know Your Rights workshops. She also served as the Lead Coordinator for the Clemency Coalition of New York, a multi-organizational group advocating for more pardons and commutations to be granted in New York State. Witnessing the ways in which marginalized populations are often further disenfranchised by the criminal legal system, Steggell came to law school to pursue a career at the intersection of immigration and criminal defense. After her 1L year, she interned with the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem. She is spending her 2L year in the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic at NYLS. After her 2L year, she will intern with the Bronx Defenders Criminal Defense Practice.
Class of 2026
Claudia Chaneski ’26, from New Jersey, is a 2022 graduate of Northeastern University, where she majored in criminal justice. At Northeastern, she was actively engaged in student leadership roles, including serving on the executive board of a civic engagement organization, IGNITE at Northeastern; participating in the Student Alliance for Prison Reform; and working as a Criminal Justice Peer Mentor. Chaneski participated in the co-op program at Northeastern, which allowed her to intern with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York and with an immigration law firm, where she worked closely with numerous clients on their cases. She plans to further explore immigration law as well as other public policy areas in law school.
Jesse Daniels ’26 (he/him) graduated from the University of Denver where he studied international studies, Mandarin, and sustainability. For the last six years, he worked as a public benefits advocate at various legal service organizations in New York City. His work involved finessing city, state, and federal welfare programs on behalf of low-income New Yorkers as well as assisting attorneys with anti-eviction proceedings, legal name/gender change processes, and community outreach and education to LGBTQ folks and people living with HIV/AIDS. He credits his time with the LGTBQ/HIV Advocacy Project at Brooklyn Legal Services as well as the Bronx Legal Services’ and New York Legal Assistance Group’s (NYLAG) Public Benefits Units with instrumentally shaping his commitment to racial and economic justice work that supports the critical day-to-day legal needs of low-income community members. He is an Avodah Jewish Service Corp ’17–18 alumni, and a former member of LSSA 2320 (UAW), where he served as a union steward as well as a bargaining member on two collective bargaining contracts. Daniels is interested in poverty law, constitutional law, and labor law, and he looks forward to exploring public interest opportunities at NYLS. He intends to leverage his law degree to support the civil legal needs of low-income, marginalized community members, specifically LGTBQ folks and/or people living with HIV/AIDS.
Jennifer Diaz ’26 was born and raised in New York City. She is a graduate of Pace University with a B.A. in political science and in peace and justice studies. Diaz also received a master’s of international affairs from Baruch College. After graduating from college, she taught English abroad in Seoul, South Korea, and tutored North Korean refugees. Upon her return to the United States, she worked as a Deputy Campaign Manager and the Director of Constituent Services for a Queens Assemblymember. In the two years prior to law school, she was working as Manager of Community Engagement for the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) where she conducted Know Your Rights presentations in Spanish for recently arrived asylum seekers and other immigrant populations. She is driven by her desire to help others and wants to help uplift them, so their needs are addressed and their goals achieved.
Nicole Dos Santos ’26 is a 2022 graduate of the College of Staten Island with a B.A. in political science. Dos Santos, a first-generation law student, comes to law school after working the past 10 years as an actor and as an audio engineer and operations manager for Premier Studios. She became interested in public interest work and criminal defense after her time working as a rape survivor advocate with Safe Horizon on Staten Island, where she accompanied survivors through medical exams and police interviews.
Chloe Fernandez ’26 Evening is a 2014 graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo, where she double majored in international relations and geography. Since graduating, she has been actively involved in community work in Westchester County. She is a part-time Evening Division student at NYLS, working as Program Director for the Westchester Youth Alliance during the day. Previously, she worked as a patient advocate with Open Door Family Medical Centers and as a program coordinator of the Westchester County Youth Councils for Family Services of Westchester. This past year, she completed a nine-month leadership program with Volunteer New York.
Marsha Kubyshko ’26 is a 2017 graduate of Boston University with a B.A. in international relations. Following graduation, Kubyshko worked as Program Manager at C4 Innovations, a community services provider that advances recovery, wellness, and housing stability for people who are marginalized. She is a Ukrainian immigrant and is exploring a career in immigration law. Kubyshko is a native Russian speaker and fluent in Spanish.
Priya Maskey ’26 is a 2021 graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she was Senior Class President, and a member of the Social Justice Co-op. Since graduating, she worked for two years as a care coordinator at Good Shepherd Services in the Bronx, providing resources to children and their families. Maskey came to law school to pursue her interest in child advocacy.
Francesca Perrone ’26 Evening is a 2018 graduate of Barnard College of Columbia University with a B.A. in political science. She received her master’s in public health policy and management from New York University’s School of Public Health in 2020. She worked as a Health Policy Fellow with New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, and as a Phone Canvassing Field Manager for the Working Families Party. She is fluent in Spanish and worked for two years as a Bilingual Public Health Advisor with NYC Health and Hospitals. As a part-time evening student, she is working full-time with the Hispanic Federation as a Policy Analyst and Compliance Specialist.
Flavian Philip ’26 is a 2022 graduate of the City College of New York (CCNY) with a B.A. in philosophy and a minor in legal studies. While in college, Philip participated in the CCNY’s Democracy Corps as a Fellow, where she worked and collaborated with nonprofit organizations focused on outreach. Philip worked with the CUNY Census Corp assisting and encouraging members of the Spanish Harlem community in filling out the 2020 census. During the course of her fellowship, Philip also worked with Brooklyn Voters Alliance, Cook Out the Vote, and Election Protection to help register citizens to vote and educate her community on ranked choice voting during the 2021 primary elections. In the spring of 2022, Philip spent a semester in Washington, D.C., where she focused on public policy, taking courses like Politics and Washington D.C. and Power Inequal Social Policies. She also interned with Staffing the Mission, a nonprofit focused on helping improve nonprofit jobs by holding other organizations accountable for their work practices and hosting workshops that recommend better practices to nonprofit leaders. She came to law school to pursue a career in civil rights law.
Bekka Wiedenmeyer ’26 is a 2016 graduate of California Baptist University. Prior to law school, she worked as a financial recruiter, a real estate staff writer, and an Assistant Corporate Trainer in the start-up industry space. She became interested in law school after becoming trained and working as a volunteer with Court Appointed Special Advocates in New York City. Through this work, she was assigned to active foster care cases in NYC Family Court and worked to protect the rights of the children and families affected by the child welfare system, ensuring they had the support they needed. Wiedenmeyer is interested in pursuing a career as an attorney for the child.