By Xixi Liu
Sandra Nichols came in contact with Safe Passage about 2 years ago and has been volunteering and helping ever since. She assists Safe Passage with the initial intake of young people in Immigration Court. She also used her prior experience as a social worker to assist Safe Passage to supervise a social work student last summer.
Sandra attended Michigan State for her undergraduate studies. At first, she a home economics major. During her junior year, she attended Merrill Parmer Institute, currently known as Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute of Wayne State University, which works to “improve the development, health and well-being of infants, children, youth, and their families.” During her time at the Merrill Parmer Institute, she was a “big sister” to someone who lived in one of the public housing projects in Detroit. Because of this experience, she decided to become a social worker. Sandra wanted to help families and provide good care for their children.
Sandra worked as a social worker for nearly 25 years before attending New York Law School. During those 25 years, she was a Clinical Director, Supervisor, Trainer, Planner, and Case worker in various public welfare, child welfare, and mental health agencies, as well as outpatient drug and alcohol treatment programs. Sandra stated that for her, the greatest challenge of working as an attorney with a social work background is differentiating between being a mandated reporter of child abuse as a social worker and having to adhere to attorney-client privilege/confidentiality as an attorney. Sandra described that sometimes, she would have to stop herself from trying to testify as an expert when she was representing her clients in court as an attorney.
She graduated from New York Law School in 1995 and was admitted to the New York and New Jersey bar. Sandra’s legal focus is immigration, triggered by the many international students her family hosted over the years. Upon graduation, Sandra worked briefly part-time for another attorney before starting her own firm.
Her reason to continue volunteering and helping the Safe Passage children is quite simple: because they need it. Sandra stated that sometimes it’s not about what we want to do or what we like to do, it’s more of a recognition that there is a need for something to be done.
Sandra thinks the best part about volunteering is knowing that someone is being helped. Although we can’t help and represent every single child, we strive to try our best. The number of children and families we are helping are increasing every week. And this can’t be done without the help and assistance of our wonderful attorneys like Sandra Nichols. Thank you, Sandra!