12BY6 meets Paralegals for The Community
The south Bronx is known for its gritty and dark reputation, this borough houses the goal and aspirations of thousands trying to achieve their American dream. Fighting for the dream does not come without it’s pitfalls, whether you were born in in the Bronx or migrated, living in the borough you are aware of the tension between the community and our legal system. Many of the thousands walking to the 149th and 3rd avenue train station to their morning commute are walking on egg shells in fear of unjust legal repercussions. It is a scary thought to feel alone and believe you are alone to battle this seemingly unconquerable legal system. For most this is where they give up, they are defeated.
In this same so called dark and dangerous borough of New York City sits a beacon of hope, a light to guide those through their darkest times. The Paralegals for the Community sits in the heart of the south Bronx, an all women, Latina owned paralegal firm founded by three amazing and dedicated women. Swannie Batista and her sister Rachel Batista who are partnered with Elaine Castillo to embark on this journey. Swannie states “Empowering, strengthening and educating the community”. These are the words that drive these women to fight vigorously for their people.
Located in the hub of 149th and 3rd avenue, the combined 25 years of experience paralegals and founders is where they have decided to plant their flags and take a stand for their community. “We’re here for the people, we’re bilingual, we’re young and people have loved the idea” exclaimed Swannie as you can’t help, but be captivated by her passion when she speaks about helping the people. The community has gravitated to the Paralegals as they have helped so many that call the Bronx home. “We knew we wanted to help” were the words Swannie expressed about helping Bronxites with problems as serious as immigration, divorce, and taxes to a simple notary the Paralegal have assisted and saved many.
Not only are these Latina leaders cleaning up the legal system, they are actually rolling up their sleeves and modeling to the community on how to keep the streets clean by arming themselves with bags and brooms in hope to inspire other to do the same. On the front lines working for the people, cleaning up the garbage in the community even in front of other business’s store fronts. Act like this are important to the mission as Elaine confidently says, “if we don’t take care of it who else will” .
Out of the many daily tasks these paralegals “slay” every day. They also succeeded in creating a scholarship program through Hostos Community College to inspire young women to purse their dreams despite all the odds that comes with growing up in the Bronx. These women are true trailblazers when it comes to inspiring and fighting for women empowerment and entrepreneurship. Along with the scholarship also creating an internship and setting up women workshops such as their "Self-Made Boss Lady" event where they helped give women the tools and motivation to let go of their fears and become entrepreneurs. "Sharing knowledge, building relationships and giving back" Swannie says when describing the events and programs they have started. These Boss Ladies are true advocates for women empowerment and entrepreneurship.
Helping to change the narrative of the Bronx, Elaine spoke about the change she wants to see in the Bronx and the people who reside here “it starts with the people and having pride of where I come from” it is these types of challenges that fuels Elaine and her partners to fight for the change they envisioned. Helping those who are truly in need because they are either afraid or don’t have the knowledge to understand their rights is their goal. The Bronx is not only a place where their business is located, but is the core to their beliefs “this is my home, this is where I was raised” says Elaine as you can feel the Bronx pride coming out of her, the only thing missing was a “yerrr”.
There is a genuine authenticity about these three women, although they are building a strong presence on social media they are not simply just “doing it for the gram.” These women are on a mission and have no plans on slowing down. If you want to learn more about the Paralegals for the Community and their upcoming events please check out their website and social media.