My Fellowship Journey
by Nicole Siino
As I wrap up my NextGen fellowship, I am reminded that I’ve learned a lot, failed a lot, and now use the term “pain points” in conversations with friends. I have gained insight into who I am as a person both professionally and personally. I’ve learned that I am much more of a morning worker and prefer to meet people over coffee than on the phone. I really dislike cold calling people but in the end I’m always glad I did. I recognize that it takes a lot for me to muster up the courage to introduce myself to strangers, but through this fellowship I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to pursue what I think is important.
For my fellowship project, as mentioned in my previous blog posts, I expanded the Juvenile Resource Finder app I created in law school. The Resource Finder app now includes criminal justice and community resources for all of Massachusetts. It allows attorneys and social workers to quickly find programs for clients. The app populates a list of resources based on three different filters: location, age, and resource type. It cuts down on research time and teaches new attorneys and social workers where programs are located and what they can do for clients. The app contains contact information for every resource including email addresses, websites, and phone numbers, making it really easy for users to contact programs themselves.
While I’m very happy with the apps progress, getting to this point has been challenging to say the least. The app looks and runs very differently from the app I created in law school. It took a lot of hard work to tear down what I thought I knew and build it back up from scratch. I spent a lot of time listening to people in the criminal justice community about the type of app they’re looking for and what their clients could benefit from. I incorporated much of their feedback into the current version of the app.
I figured out early on that I needed to create a sustainability plan to ensure the app was still able to run once my fellowship ends. Community based resources can lose funding and go out of business quickly, so it was extremely important that each resource in the app contained the most up to date information. After many discussions, the Massachusetts public defender’s office agreed to maintain the resources once my fellowship ends. They have on staff social workers who can use their expert knowledge to continuously add and update the programs. All of the resources live in an online, user friendly spreadsheet called Airtable. The social workers will edit the resources in Airtable which will automatically update the resources in the app. In addition, The Tubman Project has agreed to maintain the technical side of the app. They create AI tools to benefit public defenders.
My project has morphed and changed directions several times, but the main goal has remained: to educate lawyers on the services available to their clients, whether that is for their court case or for their own personal benefit.