Courtesy of Clara Boone

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Clare Boone ’23 has cycled through five different apartments in three different states. The constant moving has yet to slow her down.

For the past eight months, she has filled her time vigorously: interning virtually at a Yale School of Public Health research lab, volunteering on various political campaigns and finding the time for her loved ones. But since this September, the molecular, cellular and developmental biology major has moved into uncharted waters with a full-time internship for the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.

“I’ve always been really interested in progressive politics, community organizing and advocacy, so I was really excited when I stumbled upon this internship,” Boone said. “It just seemed like it would fit my interests and be a great opportunity to use my gap year to explore a different field. I ended up loving it.”

Like many Yalies, Boone decided to take a leave of absence because she recognized that the Yale to which she would return in the fall of 2020 would be drastically different from the one she left. But as the semester approached, she had few concrete plans.

When Yale went online in the spring, Boone first stayed with her boyfriend in Pennsylvania at her parents’ home and then moved to a few different apartments in Maine with her boyfriend before landing in Kentucky. She has now temporarily settled in Georgia. She applied for the ACLU-LA internship in August; in September, she learned she had the job.

These days, Boone typically spends her mornings in her Airbnb doing yoga, going on runs, drinking coffee and catching up on the news before logging into her internship at around 9 or 10 a.m. For her, the ACLU-LA has offered an opportunity to combine her passion for social justice with impactful, on-the-ground work. She told the News she developed an interest in social justice at a young age by following incidents of police brutality against Black Americans.

“I was young when Trayvon Martin was killed, and I followed that trial very closely. I was devastated to see the lack of accountability,” Boone said. “Trayvon Martin was just murdered and there was no accountability for that.”

Much of Boone’s time is spent working at the ACLU-LA Justice Lab. The project, born in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, works to secure pro-bono representation from over 40 for-profit law firms and legal clinics for people of color in Louisiana who have experienced racially discriminatory policing practices and violence.

Anthony Cecutti, a New York City-based solo attorney who is working on a Justice Lab case, told the News that the objective of the program is to file civil rights cases to bring about systemic change.

“You no longer are in a law school classroom talking about cases, but you’re actually talking with real people who have suffered real tragedies,” Cecutti said. “That takes on a whole different feeling and experience.”

According to ACLU-LA Legal Director Nora Ahmed, Boone’s supervisor, the Louisiana chapter sees itself as a community organization. The organization responds to local issues like mass incarceration and non-unanimous juries through legal action and publicity campaigns.

Because the Justice Lab is still in its infancy, no day on the job is the same for Boone. She said that she is tasked with a lot of “creative thinking.” This includes both coordinating with different experts and extensively analyzing complicated legal research. For instance, she identifies amici curiae, who are individuals that are not a party to a case but offer expertise relevant to it. She has also worked to file a cert petition — a petition that holds a lower court had incorrectly interpreted the law — for a case currently at the Supreme Court.

“I feel so blessed that Clare took this year off and chose to work at [the Louisiana] affiliate,” Ahmed said. “Without her, we would not be able to do everything that we’re doing today. That is such a strong testament to who Clare is, her work ethic, and her work product — I don’t think there’s any higher praise that you could give to anyone than that.”

Throughout the pandemic, Boone has lived with her boyfriend, Emmett Shell ’23, a former staff reporter at the News. They met at a November dance hosted by Benjamin Franklin College during their sophomore year and started dating last December.

Shell said he has always known Boone as someone who is deeply committed to social issues, current events and politics. He offered a list of “great” moments in which he described Boone’s resolve and passion for her work at the ACLU.

One moment Shell shared was how just last week, he saw Boone working on her computer at 10 p.m. as he left to talk to his friends from Yale over the phone. When he returned at 12:30 a.m., she was still there.

“Seeing her take this under her wing and just seeing how excited and passionate she is, and how much she’s learned, how much it matters to her, and how much she cares about the work she’s doing has been really great,” Shell said.

On campus, Boone plays on the varsity women’s lacrosse team, which she says she is excited to return to in the fall of 2021. She is also involved in the organization Youth 2 Youth, a student-run program that provides shelter to young adults experiencing homelessness in New Haven. Boone has continued working for the group virtually throughout the pandemic.

Though Boone is sticking with MCDB as her major, she said that her opportunity at the ACLU-LA has introduced her to a new option for her career and that she is now considering law school. She plans to remain on a leave of absence in the spring semester to continue her internship.

“I couldn’t think of a better thing to spend my gap year doing. Every day, I’m just inspired by the people working on this initiative,” Boone said. “The ACLU is led by women of color … they’re just such inspirations to what it means to fight for racial justice.”

Talat Aman | talat.aman@yale.edu