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PILF auction raises over $9,000 to benefit public interest law students

Proceeds from the Penn State Law Public Interest Law Fund's annual auction provides economic assistance to students pursuing public interest internships over the summer.
PILF President Bianca Gutierrez (left) and auction emcee Davis Blount

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Law Public Interest Law Fund (PILF) hosted its fourteenth annual auction on Thursday, February 4, raising more than $9,000 to provide economic assistance to students pursuing public interest internships over the summer. For the first time, the auction took place in a virtual setting—but the excitement surrounding the event, and its positive impact on students, remained as high as ever.

“This event is always near and dear to my heart, because I began my legal career as a public interest lawyer and I know how much of a difference summer funding makes for our students,” said Hari M. Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law in University Park. “I am so proud of the creativity and resilience of our PILF leaders, who did an extraordinary job creating an innovative virtual auction, and grateful to everyone who is supporting them.”

Most public interest internships are unpaid, and funds raised in the auction are awarded to students through the PILF Fellowship Fund to help cover housing, food, transportation, and general living costs. 

“The support for PILF is overwhelming, and we had faculty, staff, students, alumni, and family members all gathered for our online auction,” said Bianca Gutierrez, a 2021 juris doctor candidate and president of PILF. “It’s clear that public interest students are not alone—we have the whole law school community behind us.”

Attendees at this year’s auction bid on a wide range of unique and creative items, including student-created artwork and crafts, gift cards and special items donated by alumni and local businesses, and experiences with Penn State Law professors—such as Zoom game nights, virtual cooking classes, and more. For the second year in a row, 2021 juris doctor candidate Davis Blount emceed the auction and kept everyone entertained with his running commentary.

This year’s PILF auction comes on the heels of a separate public-interest focused gift from Penn State alumna Christie Tillapaugh to create an endowment known as the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Public Interest Law Award at Penn State Law.

“I can’t begin to describe how important it is to students that we have so much support from the school and donors like Christie Tillapaugh,” Gutierrez said. “It’s amazing to know that, regardless of the ups and down of fundraising from our student organization, this new endowment will provide financial support for public interest law students.”

In 2020, the PILF Fellowship provided aid to five students:

  • Graham Ball (2021 juris doctor candidate), who interned for the Prisoners’ Right Project of the Legal Aid Society in New York City;
  • Alexis Castillo (2022 juris doctor candidate), who completed an internship with Las Americas, an immigrant advocacy center in El Paso, Texas;
  • Micaela Hyams (2022 juris doctor candidate), who worked with the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of General Counsel as an intern with the Bureau of Regulatory Counsel for the Department of Environmental Protection;
  • Becca Heisner (2021 juris doctor candidate), who interned for the Department of Veterans Affairs with the Court of Appeals Litigation Group in Washington, D.C.; and Elizabeth Patterson (2022 juris doctor candidate), who interned with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations.

In addition to raising money, the auction also raises awareness of public interest opportunities in the legal profession.

“I was driven to push this auction to success because it’s personal for me— I will likely be surviving off of a PILF Fellowship this summer,” said Kaitlin Briggs, a 2022 juris doctor candidate and merchandise chair for PILF. “Every person who helped organize and participate in this auction showed how much they care, and honestly, that means more than exceeding our fundraising goal.”

The application for summer 2021 funding through the PILF Fellowship Fund will be announced later this spring. All first-year students who will have completed at least 21 credits prior to summer 2021 and second- and third-year students who are not graduating in May 2021 are eligible for the funding. Visit the PILF website for more information.

PILF is a student-run organization at Penn State Law in University Park that fundraises for fellow law students pursuing public interest work. The organization is dedicated to promoting student interest and community involvement in the public interest law field by awarding summer fellowships for unpaid, public interest internships. 

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