Peace Corps veteran hopes to foster social justice goals

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After earning his undergrad degree in business and economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Evan Myers decided not to pursue a career in the business world.

What changed his focus was an internship at the Public Defender Service (PDS) for the District of Columbia the summer before his senior year, and returning there for four months after graduation. 

As an investigator at the PDS, Myers worked closely with a staff attorney to advocate for those facing Class 1 felony charges, interacting with clients on a daily basis and throughout case litigation. His tasks included serving subpoenas, taking legal statements, analyzing footage, and writing legal memos that were entered into the court record.

“Witnessing their stories, struggles, and the challenges they faced within the criminal justice system had a profound impact on me—and ultimately inspired me to pursue a JD,” he says. “What really resonated was witnessing the unwavering passion and dedication of my supervising attorney. He fought tirelessly for the rights of underprivileged clients, working within a system that often perpetuates cycles of poverty and injustice.

“In general, PDS showed me the impact legal representation can have on the lives of individuals who are marginalized or overlooked. I’m committed to fighting for equal access to justice and dismantling the systematic inequalities that plague our society.”

In October 2019, Myers headed to Vanua Levu in northern Fiji to spend seven months as a Youth Empowerment volunteer with the Peace Corps. Living in Raviravi, a remote village of 90 residents, he was immersed in a completely different culture and way of life, and learned the local dialect of iTaukei. 

Many of the children had never encountered someone with white skin, and toddlers would cry and run away. 

“It took time and patience to build trust, create a sense of familiarity, and ultimately become a friend and mentor to the children,” Myers says. “Additionally, as an American, adults assumed I was automatically wealthy and capable of providing any necessary resources. Managing these expectations and explaining my role as a Peace Corps volunteer was an ongoing process that required open communication, cultural sensitivity, and a deep respect for the community.”

Myers taught school teachers how to better engage students and on the importance of teaching sexual education. In the village, he wrote grants to help with solar power, clean water and tools to make walking paths in the jungle. Unfortunately, his 30-month service was cut to eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Myers and his partner Kaitlin then found work as gardeners in Entabeni Gardens, a botanical garden in the remote, rural town of Hana on Maui; and also started a vegetable garden, eventually selling produce at a farmers’ market. 

“Living and working in Hana, surrounded by the natural beauty of Maui, was an enriching experience that provided a unique perspective on the importance of community and sustainability,” he says. 

The two then spent a year in Bordo, a Buddhist community in the Italian Alps, maintaining gardens, cooking meals, and contributing to the restoration of stone buildings. 

“The underlying principles of Buddhism resonated deeply with us, and we were so happy to explore this new path,” Myers says.  “The Alps provided a breathtaking backdrop for our daily activities and a peacefulness that fostered a sense of introspection and personal growth.” 

Myers returned to academia last year, and is now a rising 2L at Wayne Law. He particularly appreciates the community of professors and classmates.

“As an out-of-state student, I came to Detroit without any sort of foundation, but immediately felt at home after starting at Wayne,” he says. “My classmates provided a support system, friend group, and study buddies. The professors make class interesting, engaging, and genuinely care about every student's success.” 

He is particularly interested in workers’ rights, criminal law, and housing rights. 

“We live in a society that privileges some more than others,” he says. “I want to promote equality and social justice, while protecting the rights of individuals. While my interests are broad, and I’m still figuring out what kind of law to go into, I know I want to work in a profession that promotes fairness and recognizes injustice.” 

A Penny Beardslee Public Interest Fellowship recipient, Myers is currently working as a summer law clerk at the State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) in Detroit, under Wayne Law alumnus Steven Helton.

“I’m excited to work at SADO both because of their unique mission, and to deepen my understanding of appellate advocacy and legal writing,” Myers says. “SADO had a juvenile lifer unit—and I hope to work on the resentencing of clients who were sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile. I believe minors should not be sentenced to life without parole because of developmental immaturity, capacity for rehabilitation, disproportionate sentencing and humanitarian consideration.” 

This fall Myers will be working part-time at Lakeshore Legal Aid in Detroit and also has been selected to work this fall at the Federal Community Defender (FCD) office in Detroit through an Holistic Defense Externship, an interdisciplinary partnership between Wayne Law and the Wayne State School of Social Work. He was awarded the Harry Klein and Shirley Klein Legal Scholarship from the Law Office of Mark L. Teicher in Farmington Hills to help fund his externship.

“Different from my work at SADO and PDS, at FCD I’ll be combining aspects of social work within the justice system,” he says. “I’ll have the opportunity to work in tasks related to mitigation and generally providing for clients and families basic needs that arise as a result of being involved in the criminal justice system.” 

A native of Charlottesville, Va., Myers is enjoying his experience in the Motor City, where his leisure activities include racket sports and cooking. He also enjoys going home to visit his mother, Jane Evans, a social worker of 30 years; his father, Richard Myers, a middle school teacher; and his sister, Anna Myers, a recent graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina with a degree in environmental science. 

Myers particularly relishes the Detroit culture and the opportunities to see live music, art, and community events.

“The sense of community in my neighborhood is amazing,” he says. “We have a community garden, where neighbors come together to cultivate and share produce. Most people know each other names and there's a genuine sense of connection. Also, it's heart-warming to see people sitting on their front porches and living here for generations. 

“Also, there are so many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s colorful street art, revitalization of historic buildings, or a fun coffee shop, I’m always excited to see more of the city.”

While Myers has not actively continued Buddhist practice during his law studies, his exposure to Buddhist beliefs in Bordo continues to impact his mindset. 

“One of the key aspects I gained is the development of patience and appreciation for those around me,” he says. “Law can be demanding and stressful and requires intense focus and dedication. Drawing on lessons learned from Buddhism, I’m able to approach challenges with a sense of calmness and understanding, rather than giving weight to feelings of stress and frustration—though these feelings are still present. 

“Also, the values of compassion and service that are inherent in Buddhist teachings have influenced my approach to law studies. I believe in the importance of using my legal education to serve others and make a positive impact in society. The principles of empathy, understanding and justice align both with the core tenets of Buddhism and with my legal career aspirations.”

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