Spartan Showcase: Zora Raglow-DeFranco

Zora Raglow-DeFranco headshot

Programs: MSW, JD

From an early age, Zora Raglow-DeFranco has wanted to help others—and she’s focused on doing so through social justice. She recalls attending protests with her father and learning about social services from her mother, the chief executive officer of a nonprofit foster care agency. 

This May, Raglow-DeFranco will graduate with dual degrees from Case Western Reserve University's School of Law and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, prepared to put her education to work. She has pursued fellowships and internships for both schools that have allowed her to make a difference in causes she cares about including criminal justice reform, homelessness, drug abuse and human trafficking. 

In 2019, Raglow-DeFranco researched the over-policing of the city’s homeless population for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and worked with Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless to help pass a homeless bill of rights. She also did a social work field placement with the  American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, researching equity and efficiency in Ohio drug courts, where she found little transparency. 

“No one was keeping track of their success,” she said. 

In 2020, Raglow-DeFranco was a legal fellow at The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, where she did legal research and reported and wrote articles for an ongoing journalism series, Roadblocks to Police Accountability, that investigates police misconduct. 

As a legal intern with the Human Trafficking Clinic at the School of Law, Raglow-DeFranco drafted motions and legal documents on behalf of clients and provided social work case management to survivors of human trafficking.

She credits these experiences, made possible by the dual-degree program, with giving her an up-close perspective on working with marginalized populations and where change needs to happen.

“In social work school, we have required training on how to interact with medical staff and patients with empathy. That interaction needs to happen within the legal system,” she said. “The law school always encourages us to listen to clients’ needs first. But in the field, I’ve seen many lawyers who assume to know what the client needs without asking them. It would be beneficial if attorneys, social workers and clients came together instead of working apart.”

Following graduation, Raglow-DeFranco will begin the two-year Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellowship, awarded to a law school graduate at the beginning of their career in public interest law. In this role, she will work to make housing and rental assistance an affirmative right for homeless people in Rochester, New York.

It’s one more step toward her dream job: Writing policy and legislation that changes things on a more systemic level. 

“I don’t see myself ever working outside of the public interest realm,” she said.

This story appeared in The Daily on April 19, 2022.