Tomas Alvarez-Perez.
Tomas Alvarez-Perez.

Hamilton Scholar Interns at Public Defender’s Office, Aims to Study Law

Winter 2020 | Miami

Hamilton College Posse Scholar Tomas Alvarez-Perez is a fall intern in the Richmond Public Defender’s office in Richmond, Virginia. The role is offered in connection with the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty, a poverty studies program designed to provide educational opportunities for college students in a wide range of disciplines and career trajectories.

Tomas, a junior at Hamilton with a dual major in economics and Hispanic studies, has been focused on a wide range of research in the internship, which places an emphasis on young people in the legal system. He has created synopses of medical records for litigation specialists and has reviewed body camera footage to check that law enforcement officials followed proper procedure during searches. Tomas has interviewed clients’ family members, serving as a Spanish translator and collecting support letters for cases.

Tomas came to the U.S. from Cuba when he was 13, and says he is drawn to help communities with the goal of going back to serve his home country.

“A lot of people experience trauma, abuse, mental health issues and more,” Tomas says. “These letters help show the history of the whole person, and what they may have struggled with in the past. This is one way to help people in court.”

Tomas came to the United States from Cuba when he was 13 years old, and says he is drawn to help communities with the goal of going back to serve his home country.

“Studying economics and Hispanic studies and my internship are all preparing me to return one day,” he says. “I want to know how the justice system works here, and then I want to help in Latin America.”

At Hamilton, Tomas is a research assistant studying the relationship between armed groups and civilian groups in Colombia, exploring coercion methods and paths certain groups use to build community legitimacy. He is also a teacher’s assistant in the Spanish department.

“When I first came to Miami, I didn’t really know what college was in the United States,” Tomas says. “I remember when a Posse program director came to speak to my high school class. I knew then I wanted to be a Posse Scholar.”

On campus Tomas is also captain of the Hamilton fencing club, a sport he first practiced as a child in Cuba.

“Fencing helped me a lot when I was new to Hamilton and being in a Posse also made it much easier to thrive in college,” he says. “Leaving Miami and going somewhere that is very different culturally and that is also freezing was not easy. My Posse supports each other however we can—and we now message each other often during quarantine.”

After Hamilton, Tomas plans to pursue a doctorate in Latin American studies. He sees potential for an academic future exploring Cuban identity and aspires to one day become a college professor.