April 25, 2011
Beverly Beaver wants to be an advocate for children.
CAMDEN — Beverly Beaver is committed to standing up for the people in society who are most vulnerable: children.
“I want to make sure their voices are heard,” says Beaver, of Merchantville. “It’s something worth fighting for every day.”
The third-year law student at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden has carved out a niche in child advocacy and hopes to resolve legal problems for youth one child at a time. It’s a goal she set for herself before she even set foot on the Rutgers–Camden campus.
“I’ve tried to focus my work around being an advocate for children,” says Beaver, who will graduate from Rutgers–Camden on May 19. “It’s something I’m very passionate about.”
Beaver says it was a meeting with Sandra Simkins, a clinical associate professor of law at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, which inspired her to pursue juvenile advocacy at Rutgers–Camden. Simkins is co-director of the Children’s Justice Clinic at Rutgers–Camden.
“I met professor Simkins while I was an undergraduate at Moravian College and as soon as I met her, I knew I wanted to be here,” Beaver says. “I wanted to be part of the Children’s Justice Clinic.”
In the Children’s Justice Clinic at Rutgers–Camden, students provide legal representation in juvenile court hearings and work with their clients to address the causes of delinquency problems in their home environment.
“It’s been the best part of law school,” Beaver says. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities here and it’s given me the chance to hone the skills I’ll need when I work for kids.”
Simkins recalls the first time Beaver appeared in court to represent a juvenile during a particularly challenging case.
“There was one court hearing where Beverly had everything stacked against her, and frankly, in such a situation most first time students would have crumbled,” Simkins says. “But Beverly stood her ground. Thinking on her feet, responding forcefully and appropriately to the judge and prosecutor, she provided outstanding representation to her client. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen such a naturally skilled advocate.”
The defendant in the case was released from custody for the first time in five years thanks to Beaver’s advocacy.
In another case, Beaver describes a defendant who was on a path to a criminal life.
“If he would have gone to jail, he would have been surrounded by kids just like him,” Beaver says. “He would have been taught to become a more sophisticated criminal. He has a future now, and that’s the best part about being a lawyer for kids. You have an opportunity to make a difference.”
Beaver says Rutgers–Camden has opened doors to her involvement in organizations like the Support Center for Child Advocates in Philadelphia and the Defender’s Association of Philadelphia, where she is an intern in the juvenile unit and is currently a candidate for a fellowship there.
“I’ve had some great experiences at Rutgers–Camden that have made me realize that I can be really good at this job,” Beaver says.