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NIU law student receives prestigious Peggy Browning Fellowship

April 30, 2014
John Festa

John Festa

The Peggy Browning Fund has awarded a 10-week summer fellowship to John Festa, a second-year student at the NIU College of Law.

Festa will spend the fellowship working at the Chicago Newspaper Guild in Chicago.

Peggy Browning Fellows are distinguished students who have not only excelled in law school but who have also demonstrated their commitment to workers’ rights through their previous educational, work, volunteer and personal experiences.

In 2014, the Peggy Browning Fund will support nearly 70 public interest labor law fellowships nationwide.

Festa’s unique background afforded him many opportunities that distinguished him for selection. He began his professional career working alongside his father in a school district for almost 10 years, as a part-time custodian and substitute teacher. These positions gave him a unique appreciation for union laborers.

“I have worked in a lot of different jobs, including being a member of the Illinois Jaycees for six years,” Festa says. “Being part of the Jaycees, you get to take part in projects that benefit lots of people. But once I volunteered for a political campaign or two I saw how many more people you could help being on the inside rather than the outside, and at that point I decided law school might be for me.”

Festa received a Michael Curry Internship in the summer of 2013. As part of his internship, he worked for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services in the Office of Counsel to the Inspector General.

“Knowing that every case I assembled meant that benefits would be recovered and could then go to people who needed them was a great feeling,” he says. “I want to spend my legal career fighting for the American worker because at my core, that is who I am and where I come from.”

During his first year of law school, Festa was a student representative for the NIU Law chapter of Delta Theta Phi legal fraternity. This past year, he served as secretary for the NIU American Constitution Society and will be the president of the society his third year.

The Peggy Browning Fund is a not for-profit organization established in memory of Margaret A. Browning, a prominent union-side attorney who was a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from 1994 until 1997. Peggy Browning Fellowships provide law students with unique, diverse and challenging work experiences fighting for social and economic justice. These experiences encourage and inspire students to pursue careers in public interest labor law.