University Community

OHIO student fuels passion for helping others through internship with Ohio Innocence Project

When Esme Miranda began considering summer internships, they knew that helping others would be part of the experience. 

From Cincinnati, Ohio, Miranda is a third-year student studying political science pre-law in the College of Arts and Sciences and achieving certificates in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and Law, Justice and Culture.

Miranda’s experience with the Ohio University Chapter of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) introduced them to the beneficial work that the organization does. The chapter is a student organization within the Center for Law, Justice, and Culture. At OHIO, the chapter hosts book drives and fundraises for the Athens County Reentry Program, along with hosting exonerated individuals to speak.

Miranda poses with Ohio Innocence Project exoneree Nancy Smith.
Miranda is pictured with Ohio Innocence Project exoneree Nancy Smith.

After OHIO introduced them to the organization, Miranda sought to further their involvement and applied to the Center for Law, Justice & Culture's Social Justice Internship Fund.  The program is an alumna-funded experience that provides stipends to qualified undergraduate students interested in attending law school.  Miranda was accepted as a social justice intern with the Ohio Innocence Project in Cincinnati and completed the internship this past summer. 

With the goal of attending law school in the future, the skills that Miranda gained over the summer prepared them immensely.

Throughout the internship, Miranda had the opportunity to get to know both the policy and clinical sides of the organization. Clinic experience allowed Miranda to process requests and write letters on behalf of incarcerated individuals. The policy side involved research and outreach to the community to inform them of the services that the OIP offers.

Miranda and fellow Ohio Innocence Project interns at Hamilton County Courthouse to watch a case.
Miranda and fellow Ohio Innocence Project interns at the Hamilton County Courthouse to watch a case this summer.

“I really like it because we’re trying to make connections with the community so that they are aware of wrongful convictions, in case there is someone that they love who is in prison for something that they were wrongfully convicted of, and they can get the help they need with OIP,” Miranda explained.

Another important aspect of the organization is their work to help populations with language barriers who may have face wrongful convictions.

“One of my favorite projects that I’ve worked on is the Spanish outreach here in Ohio and trying to make sure that those who speak Spanish are aware of the OIP. I’m really excited about that project,” Miranda said. “I feel like the OIP does a really great job with trying to make connections with people who don’t speak in English in Ohio. The main goal is just to help people and make sure that they get their freedom back.

Over the summer, Miranda’s team also partnered with the Zaur Lutheran Foundation and traveled to Toledo, Ohio to co-sponsor the fourth annual Party in the Parking Lot event. The organizations hosted an event with live music and food while constructing beds for the Let’s Build Beds, an organization in the Toledo area that ensures children have access to beds. They also visited Bowling Green State University's crime department and learned about proper crime scene investigation and evidence preservation. 

Miranda’s involvement as a student allows them to continue to impact social justice causes within the OHIO community. They are a member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio University (ACLU-OU) and Phi Alpha Delta, and serve as the vice president of Alpha Psi Lambda.

“The organizations that I’m in have let me branch out and make new friends which I’ve enjoyed a lot,” they said.

They also serve the Division of Diversity and Inclusion as an outreach coordinator for the LGBT Center and as a LINKS peer mentor.

Miranda stressed the importance of getting involved with campus organizations and finding your niche as a student.

“I would say go to all of the Welcome Week events and the Involvement Fair,” Miranda advised. “They’ll definitely find something that they love.”

September 7, 2023
Jordan Schmitt