Laura Petty ’21 has been awarded a 2023 Skadden Foundation Fellowship, one of the most prestigious and competitive for early-career lawyers working in the public interest. Launched by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 1988, the program provides two-year-long fellowships to talented young lawyers who want to pursue public interest law on a full-time basis. For her fellowship, Petty will work at Advancement Project in Washington, D.C., beginning next fall.
Petty has dedicated her life and career to supporting local movements for racially-just schools. She has taught in underresourced and high-poverty school communities of color, researched and published on the impacts of school privatization and inequitable educational resources, and litigated in state and federal courts for equitable school funding and against school privatization. As a legal intern at NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and law fellow at the National Education Association, Petty used the law to advocate for low-income communities of color and to combat school privatization.
Petty’s fellowship project will partner her with youth and parent-led grassroots organizations in low-income communities of color across the country to challenge school closures as well as the privatization and funding policies that cause them.
Earlier in her career, Petty taught English for three years at an underresourced Mississippi high school. The experience made an impact on Petty and has influenced the course of her career. “As I set out on a path to fight for a more equitable system … I have been informed by the community [where I taught]. They do not need saving; they need self-determination, equitable distribution of resources, and their community school,” said Petty.
“I feel so humbled and honored to work with Advancement Project, an organization that pioneered movement lawyering and whose entire mission centers on the genius of the people who have been subject to racist and unjust policies,” added Petty. “It still feels so surreal that I was named a fellow, and I’m really excited for what’s to come as I aspire to spend my career working on racial justice and education issues as a civil rights and movement lawyer.”