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Criminal justice major Raphi Crenshaw ’24 interned at Tacoma Pro Bono and plans to attend law school

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Student looks into the camera while standing outside.

Image: Raphi Crenshaw ’24 is a criminal justice major from Puyallup. (Photo by Emma Stafki ’24/PLU)

May 17, 2024
By Mark Storer
PLU Marketing & Communications Guest Writer

After graduating from Emerald Ridge High School in Puyallup, Raphi Crenshaw ’24 enrolled at PLU with plans to major in biology.

“I was going to become a dermatologist, but when I started taking the classes, well, I wasn’t a fan of it,” Crenshaw remembers.

By the fall of his first year, Crenshaw knew that it was time for a change. He turned to the humanities. Specifically to major in criminal justice.

“I had taken a couple of pre-recs already, and I talked with my counselor,” Crenshaw says. “One of my biggest fears has always been changing my mind about these things, but it was OK, and I changed my mind.”

He didn’t tell his family at first that he had switched majors, but slowly, he revealed to them his newfound passion for the subject.

Crenshaw said he’s developed an interest primarily in family or immigration law, and has immersed himself in a world he hadn’t even considered before. In addition to his classes, he secured an internship at Tacoma Pro Bono, a free legal services and aid organization for Pierce County residents.

As an intern, Crenshaw’s primary responsibility is to assist clients in filling out their intake forms and providing information that will allow attorneys to put them into the proper legal clinic and get them the support they need.

“It’s really cool learning to work with different kinds of people, see what they’re going through, and guide them through the process.” Crenshaw says that, time and time again, he’s seen clients walk through the organization’s front door “broken and defeated,” but by the time they leave, “they realize there is help for them, and that weight gets lifted off their shoulders.”

Crenshaw hopes to attend law school at Seattle University, but first, he will spend a year continuing to work with Tacoma Pro Bono or pursuing another legal studies internship.

“My internship has opened a lot of doors and I’ve learned the value of networking,” Crenshaw says. “My supervisor is talking to me about different internships and employment opportunities.”

Crenshaw appreciates his strong connections with his professors in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. “They’re all so sweet and nice, and you can just talk to them,” he says. “I’ve learned so much and they’re all so amazing.”

Crenshaw said it was particularly Professor Laura McCloud and Professor Laura Fitzwater Gonzales who helped him the most.

“The professors in your major can make a huge difference in your experience,” Crenshaw says. “Having professors who are beyond caring, and take the extra step, have everything laid out for you and are solely there for you to learn in your most effective way makes the experience that much better, that much more comfortable.”