GABY MENDOZA (Theatre 2014) is very clear about her goals and desires. She wants to live in New York, in a moderate sized house with a huge dog. She also wants to make a difference in this world. This sense of clarity, focus and determination won Gaby the title of Best San Francisco Mock Trial Defense Attorney for 2013. It also earned her an internship in the San Francisco Public Defenders office.

Led by Jeff Adachi, California’s only publicly elected Public Defender, the office provides legal representation to over 25,000 indigent people charged with crimes each year. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a fundamental right, essential for a fair trial, and necessitates that the courts appoint lawyers for all indigent defendants, regardless of that defendant’s education or intelligence. The function of a public defender is to provide the due process safeguard that the Supreme Court deems necessary for a constitutionally sound criminal justice system. 

Of all the interns at the 7th Street office– just a stone’s throw from the court building at 850 Bryant– Gaby is one of the few high school students; most of them are in college or law school. Her responsibilities there range from helping lawyers and paralegals with paperwork to watching surveillance videos. She also goes to the courthouse and attends trials, “which is probably my favorite part because I'm seeing real lawyers in action. I wanted to do something that had to do with law this summer because mock trial really boosted my interest in becoming a lawyer..."

In mock trial at SOTA this year. Gaby worked with Cristina Rey (Piano 2014) and Gillian Rude (Media 2015) on the defense team, practicing for many months, at least twice a week. “Our coach Cliff Yin is such a fantastic motivator and he really helps us understand mock trial…its one of the most amazing things thats ever happened to me.”

Gaby found her way to the Public Defenders office through San Francisco YouthWorks, a program that matches high school students with paid internships to develop their readiness for work and promote interest in public service careers. Opportunities are available throughout the year. 

“This summer is probably the summer I'm really figuring out who I am, in every sense… this is gonna be a good one…”