Law Students of the Year: Jennifer Salva, Washburn

Jennifer Salva's personal story contributed to her desire to become an attorney. It's both remarkable and demonstrates her character and her desire to improve her community and her world.  It begins when she was three and her sister Erin arrived. Erin was born with a chromosomal translocation: a genetic mutation that left her with profound developmental disabilities, physical limitations, and deafness. Erin required virtually around the clock care, of which Salva became a necessary part. When Erin reached school age, Jennifer became her advocate — on the playground, in the classroom, to her teachers, and for social experiences. Salva wanted Erin’s peers and educators to understand how to include her in classroom and social activities regardless of her ability levels, and how this would not only enhance her education, but the education of non-disabled students by giving them a better understanding of how to communicate with someone who appears to be different than themselves.

To address some of the challenges that Salva saw her little sister face, she logged over 3,000 community service hours in college by participating in and creating programs to generate opportunities for those with a developmental disability. She created the Inclusion Connections Police Academy in partnership with the Olathe, Kansas Police Department and Inclusion Connections, Inc., to teach those with disabilities the skills they need to find safety in a crisis situation, and to teach police officers how to better serve citizens with low or no verbal skills. Jennifer plans to resume her work with this program after law school.

Salva has given dozens of presentations to classrooms of students and worked with educators in three Kansas school districts and the Kansas School for the Deaf on how to create more inclusive classrooms. She has both worked with and volunteered at the Kansas Audio-Reader Network, a radio-reading service for the blind and visually impaired, as an on-air announcer for more than four years, doing everything from on-air readings of newspapers and magazines to reading grocery store specials from the Sunday paper over the phone to give those who are visually impaired access to the printed word.

In wanting to create a more inclusive place to live for her sister, Salva uncovered a passion to increase access to justice for marginalized populations, despite what that barrier to justice may be. Her extensive experience working with individuals with poor communication skills, individuals with varying ability levels, and her knowledge of American Sign Language equipped her with a special understanding of how to serve those who are considered to be a different. Salva chose to become an attorney to couple that special gift with a legal education to serve Kansans who have barriers to access to justice.

Since joining the Washburn University School of Law family, Salva has excelled both academically and in her extracurricular pursuits.  She serves as a notes editor for the Washburn Law Journal, and has completed two judicial externships, including one with Judge Nancy Moritz on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  She also attended the Advanced eDiscovery Institute at Georgetown Law, along with Washburn Law Dean Carla Pratt, to learn about eDiscovery from practitioners and academics across the country.  Upon graduation, Jennifer will move into a clerkship with United States District Court Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, and then will began her practicing career in business litigation with the law firm of Lathrop Gage.