“You are never too young to change the world”
“Young people are agents of great transformation and changes in society”
In 2016, Kiara Skalnes began meeting with asylum seekers to discuss their immigration related matters. In 2018, Kiara met Antonia Serrano and together they founded Justice Kids, a nonprofit that helps children and asylum seekers prepare for legal proceedings.
When local immigration attorney Raquel Hecht asked her teenage daughter Kiara Skalnes for help with a young client a couple of years ago, something clicked for Kiara.
“I met a nine-year-old girl who was going to have to testify on behalf of her dad, who was being deported,” Kiara recalls. The girl was nervous, didn’t understand what to do or what to say in court. “So I talked with her for a few hours,” says Kiara, who speaks Spanish and English. The girl began to relax, and a few hours later she was prepared and more confident for her court appearance. This experience inspired Kiara to continue working with asylum seekers and ultimately form Justice Kids with the help of Antonia, a native Chilean. Justice Kids works in tandem with Grupo Latino De Accion Directa of Lane County. There are not enough immigration attorneys in town to deal with the demand, so GLAD pairs non-immigration lawyers with asylum seekers in order to provide them with representation. Volunteers for Justice Kids work alongside these lawyers to ensure that these clients are ready for their case.
I am a senior at Sheldon High School, I love embroidery, painting, and playing the flute. After I graduate, I plan to go to college and ultimately to law school. I’m from and currently reside in Eugene, Oregon and my parents are immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico. Growing up, my parents were subjected to anti- immigrant rhetoric and faced discrimination, which inspired me to find ways to help both them and the larger immigrant community. Witnessing my parents’ hardships has also made me interested in becoming an immigration attorney. My work with Justice Kids has been extremely valuable to me because it has provided me with the opportunity to learn about the type of work that immigration attorneys do as well as directly help asylum seekers develop their asylum claims. Most recently, I have been the leader of outreach at Justice Kids, which deals with finding new people to join our group and connecting them with resources, such as internships, and experiences that benefit them now and in the future. I have also started a Peer Support Group that focuses on helping the latino and immigrant community by sharing their stories, creating testimonios, and providing them with a safe space. These projects will help empower latinos and immigrants, and benefit our community as a whole.
I am an incoming senior at the University of Oregon and I am currently studying philosophy, Spanish and legal studies. I plan on assisting law school after I graduate in order to become an immigration attorney. I am originally from Medford, which is where my parents settled after emigrating from Morelia, Michoacán. My family is a major source of my inspiration to become an immigration attorney as well as joining Justice Kids. Not only have I seen the struggles they have experienced but I have also experienced them as I have been working alongside other immigrants and Latinos my entire life in jobs such as construction, housecleaning and wildland firefighting. I want to help Latinos and immigrants alike, whether that be through legal procedures or other parts of life as well. One of my few hobbies is playing soccer and working on cars.
Noa Ablow Measelle
I started volunteering for Justice Kids in her freshman year of highschool. Currently I serve as Justice Kids co-president, and I am a senior at South Eugene High School. In my current role, I support the training of other volunteers, meet with asylum applicants, and I am working to change the asylum process in Oregon. Specifically through collaboration with Researchers at Stanford University in the use of trauma science to support successful asylum cases. I am working as a research analyst at the University of Oregon Center for Equity Promotion, where I am studying the impact of social inequities on immigrant communities’ long term health in the United States. As well, I am a competitive ski racer, member of the Varsity Tennis Team, Monroe Middle School debate club coach and have served on the 4j school board as a student representative since my sophomore year.