Eric Rhoton '20 L’22 is one of six law school students selected for an inaugural program this summer that will help underserved communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters.
An Elon Law student with professional ambitions of advocating for underserved communities – a career interest he attributes to his Christian faith – has been selected for the inaugural class of Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program Student Fellows.
Eric Rhoton ’20 L’22 is one of six students from law schools across the United States chosen for a new program that pairs participants with Equal Justice Works attorneys in Texas and Florida.
Student Fellows gain exposure to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery legal work by assisting their supervisors with civil legal services and engaging in community education and advocacy efforts.
Rhoton will spend up to 10 weeks this summer with attorney Robert Flores, an Equal Justice Works Fellow, at YMCA International Services of Houston. The duo will address needs of refugees, asylees, and other immigrants disproportionately affected by natural disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and systemically cut off from public services.
“Refugees, asylees, and other new arrivals face numerous roadblocks when it comes to preparing for and recovering from disasters,” said Linda Anderson Stanley, senior program manager at Equal Justice Works. “We are thrilled to have Eric join the Disaster Resilience Program as a Student Fellow and we look forward to supporting his work advocating for immigrants who have been disproportionately affected by natural disasters.”
Rhoton said his decision to apply to the Equal Justice Works program, and his desire to one day practice law related to immigration and human rights, stems from his faith and personal experiences. “I feel like I want to love people like God has loved me,” he said, “so I started pursuing that with how I try to interact with people on a day-to-day basis.”
As a high school student, Rhoton traveled to Nicaragua for a service trip and worked with children in a medical clinic with limited resources and significant community struggles.
“I was so inspired by these kids,” Rhoton said. “There is so much more to human connection than just language and culture. Being able to interact over common things like sports and smiles and stuff that goes beyond language is where it all started.”
Rhoton, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, majored in international and global studies before graduating in 2020 from Elon University.
Prior to enrolling at Elon Law, he worked remotely as a family separation intern with Kids in Need of Defense, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization devoted to protection of unaccompanied and separated children.
Joining Rhoton this summer in the inaugural class of Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program Student Fellows are participants from Wake Forest University School of Law, University of Washington School of Law, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Northeastern University School of Law, New England Law – Boston.