(PRWEB) May 18, 2014
Aruj Chaudhry had finally made the breakthrough she had been hoping for. The quiet, reluctant young Iraqi refugee girl grabbed the youth leader’s hand and joined her on the children’s playground.
It had taken patience and respect, but Chaudhry, of Bartlett, Ill., felt like she had made even the slightest difference in the young life.
The experience helped earn Chaudhry a perspective on those in need, as well as the 2014 Lucy Sprague Public Service Award. Chaudhry receives the $25,000 Sprague award at the May 18, 2014, commencement at The John Marshall Law School.
The award was established in the memory of Lucy Sprague, who was a second-year student at John Marshall when she was murdered in December 1996. Her parents, Lee and the Hon. George R. Sprague (ret.), her sister, Cynthia, and brother, Alexander, established the scholarship to assist another student interested in a career in public service, as Lucy was. The award will help Chaudhry pay down her law school debt.
“This opportunity really has been a gift for me, the epitome of everything,” Chaudhry said. “I feel blessed because as an immigrant, we didn’t come here with lots of financial stability in tow. We left a lot of things behind. There’s always the uncertainty around you.”
She added, "Never did I think that everything I've done since I was 16, 17 would get some kind of recognition -- in law school of all places."
What she’s done since she was a teen is follow the example of service her parents instilled in her and her sister as young girls growing up in Pakistan. Their mother would regularly have the girls gather toys and other household items to donate to a local orphanage for abandoned children, Chaudhry said.
“I had grown up with a sense of being compassionate and giving back, and knowing that it’s part of my responsibility,” she said.
When she was 12, Chaudhry’s family moved to Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood. Her experience later working as a youth leader while attending the University of Chicago would further shape her desire to help people in need pursue just lives.
"Though...I couldn't possibly appreciate the gravity of what I was observing at the age of 12, I did upon immigrating to the United States and finding, much to my disbelief, the same injustices here. I'd come to understand that victims were victims, with or without borders, of circumstances or of incidents, without consideration of race, culture, religion, gender or sex, " she wrote in her appeal for the Sprague award.
In fall 2007, as a college student, she founded the Partnership for the Advancement of Refugee Rights (PARR), a human rights nonprofit that helped build a post-conflict school in Southern Sudan. Chaudhry now is remotely involved with PARR, but the school still thrives today.
After graduating from the University of Chicago in 2009, she decided, “Law will be the vehicle of change for me,” and enrolled at John Marshall.
While at John Marshall, Chaudhry lived a busy life outside of the classroom. She served as a law clerk in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, as well worked in John Marshall’s restorative justice externship and human rights and fair housing clinics.
As a Cook County clerk, she recalled the narratives and talks with victims and their families. Those interactions “reminded me of my responsibility to be the best people’s lawyer I can be so that I can fight for justice on behalf of victims and serve my community.”
Before attending John Marshall, Chaudhry worked as a paralegal at Chicago’s Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin, LLC, and interned at, among others, Human Rights First in New York City.
Chaudhry graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts in public policy studies and a minor in human rights from the University of Chicago in 2009.