Ever wonder what it’s like to be a member of Philly Fellows? In the ‘Meet Our Fellows’ series, we’ll introduce you to our current fellows, their projects, and how they are benefiting from the Philly Fellows program. This post features Christine Hammell, who is serving as the Communications and Event Associate at Philadelphia VIP.

Christine Hammell

Name: Christine Hammell

Hometown: Tabernacle, NJ

University: Drexel University

Major: Political Science (minor in Economics)

How did you decide to become a Philly Fellow?

I first heard about Philly Fellows during my sophomore year at Drexel while I was working in the Fellowships Office. I worked in this office for four years while attending classes, and when I was a senior, I decided to apply to a couple different fellowships. I had been considering going straight to law school, but I wanted to take the opportunity to work more in the public interest field before I chose public interest law as my career. Philly Fellows seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine work experience with networking to give myself that introduction to public interest work.

Getting the email that told me I was accepted as a Philly Fellow was a pretty memorable experience. I was on spring break touring the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, holding my phone up in the lobby trying to get a wifi signal to check my email. I probably looked ridiculous. But when my email finally downloaded and I saw my acceptance, I was incredibly excited – I knew that this was how I wanted to spend my first year out of undergrad.

Let’s talk about your project. What’s your site like? What are you working on?

I’m the Communications and Events Associate at Philadelphia VIP, an organization that matches attorneys seeking to do pro bono work with clients seeking civil legal services. I coordinate our signature events, write award nominations, design our newsletter, and maintain our website. As someone who has had an interest in being a public interest lawyer since my first year of college, this has been a great opportunity to see what public interest lawyers do and how the legal aid sector of non-profits operates. We’re currently working on our 35th anniversary celebration for 2016, which is going to include lots of publicity and fundraising for our cause of promoting access to justice in Philadelphia.

Community living is one of the most important aspects of the Philly Fellows program. What’s this like? How have you benefited?

The community living aspect was a big part of why I chose to apply to Philly Fellows. I was a resident assistant for three years in college and I didn’t want to lose the community environment once I graduated. My roommates are a great support system to talk to about the challenges of beginning a career and choosing our next steps towards graduate school or other work opportunities. It’s great to live with people who are on similar paths as me because we identify in a lot ways.

What’s your favorite part about being a Philly Fellow so far?

Although I’ve lived in Philadelphia for the past five years, I feel as though Philly Fellows has given me the time to really enjoy the city rather than just living in it. College is such a whirlwind of stress, papers, and exams that while I got to do many things in Philadelphia, I didn’t get to explore or enjoy the city the way I can now. Now, I have the opportunity to go to all of the free events the city offers and to walk home after work enjoying the art installations, parks, and coffee shops along the way.

Have you had any major successes since starting your Philly Fellows term?

So far, two awards have been granted to volunteers based on nominations that I was able to help write, which was very exciting. I also planned VIP’s Pro Bono Opportunities Day for National Pro Bono Week, which ended up being a great event that included a breakfast with judges and a panel discussion on the ethics of pro bono work for attorneys. I’ve also been able to network and introduce myself to many of our volunteers at the events I’ve gone to, which has been a great experience.

The question everyone’s probably asking: any idea what’s next? What do you hope to do after Philly Fellows?

I plan to eventually attend law school, but I want to work for a few years before going. Right now, I’m in the middle of applying for several other fellowships that would allow me to continue working after my placement ends. 

A huge plus to this program is getting to live & work in Philadelphia’s vibrant communities. What do like about living in the city? Where have you explored?

Living so close to Center City has brought everything much closer to home. I’ve explored lots of new South Street and Center City restaurants and I’ve gone to see a few movies at the Ritz, which is now super close to my apartment. I’ve also been to several of the PHS pop-up parks, the Night Market on Lancaster Ave, and to see The Philadelphia Orchestra perform at the Kimmel Center. Probably my favorite event so far has been Opera on the Mall, where my friends and I had a picnic on Independence Mall while watching a screening of La Traviata.

What’s your favorite hobby?

I spend most of my free time teaching public speaking and lecturing on the rules of evidence as a coach for Drexel’s mock trial team. I was a competitor myself throughout undergrad and coming back to coach has been a great opportunity for me. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to work with students that are just beginning to learn this activity. Aside from coaching, I spend a lot of my time reading. Working as a Philly Fellow means I have evenings free to read whatever I want (rather than sitting in front of textbooks!). I’m pretty much interested in anything and everything, but right now I’m getting into J.K. Rowling’s latest crime novel Career of Evil and Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik’s biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (my personal favorite Supreme Court Justice).

If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?

My superpower would be to speak any and every language in the world – it would make traveling so much easier![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]