Farah Jimenez C’90, L’96, president and CEO of the People’s Emergency Center (PEC), sat down with Penn Law’s Office of Communications to discuss her career in the field of community development and her current role at PEC, a social services agency that serves homeless families through a range of housing, case management and counseling services.
I’m Farah Jimenez. I graduated from Penn Law in ’96 and I graduated from Penn undergrad in 1990. I am now the CEO and President of the People’s Emergency Center, which is a social service agency that serves homeless women and children and also provides community development and social services.
[The] women who come in, either they have been displaced because of domestic violence situations or they are no longer able to live where they have been living, so they come to us and they will stay with us from anywhere between 30-120 days.
During that time we provide all the kinds of social services they need to get back on their feet. So, we have a center for education employment and training, a center for technology and digital inclusion, we have a center for parenting and family education. They are able to take advantage of all the courses that we offer in those centers.
I applied to law school because what I wanted was a fundamental education that would be transferable to a range of other jobs. I was particularly interested in work around advocacy and legislation.
When I was applying to law schools or was interested in applying to law schools, I would call friends of mine who were lawyers and they would say, “Ah, you don’t want to do that.” I remember thinking, That is really fascinating. I have never seen a career where people are constantly discouraging you from entering the field. And what I gleaned from that is that it is a difficult study, and it is a difficult marketplace now for attorneys — and it was then, too — but now in particular it’s challenging.
I think people in the field felt pretty jaded, and weren’t necessarily wanting to encourage people to take on what they thought was a hard life. But the good that you can do is pretty amazing, and the translation of the field to other areas are particularly useful. I’m glad I didn’t take their advice because I think it’s a great, great thing to have gone through the experience of getting your law degree.
It’s definitely worth the commitment. And if you’re not sure about whether or not you are committed to it, there is really no better place to go than Penn because of the supportive environment it offers. And that’s unusual, I think, in an academic experience at a law school.
This transcript was edited for length.