Mike Helenthal May 26, 2016, 3:45pm


NEW ORLEANS – Kaitlin L. Locascio didn’t seem any different than any of the other 90 students taking Isabel Medina’s constitutional law class at Loyola University's Law School in New Orleans. 

“She was relatively quiet in the class,” Medina recently told the Louisiana Record. “She didn’t necessarily stand out as far as being assertive or anything.”

By the end of the class, Locascio had received the highest grade.

And at commencement ceremonies May 21, she was awarded the university’s Spirit of St. Ignatius Award and recognized as one of the its top students.

“Not only did she establish early on that she was gifted academically, but that she was willing to commit to the work," Medina said. 

That’s why Medina nominated her for the prestigious award.

It was Medina’s integration law course where Locascio really started to look like a standout student.

The course involved working at a summer refugee program in Austin, Texas, where Loyola law students volunteered to help with refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

“I found she had this zeal for working on behalf of people who don’t have the resources to pay for legal services,” she said. “She was willing to do more than I ever expected. You give her something to do and she gets it done. She always rises to the task.”

Locascio has been rising to the task for some time.

Before coming to Loyola’s law school, she attended the University of San Francisco, also a Jesuit school, where she studied international studies and world religions.

She spent her sophomore year studying human trafficking and child soldiers, addressing the issues up-close in a trip to Uganda.

As a junior, she traveled to Morocco to study the Arabic language and Islam, adding stays in Israel and Palestine as a volunteer for Abraham’s Vision, an organization working to build bridges between the two sides.

After coming to LUNO’s law school to finish her post-graduate work, she focused on immigration and other social justice issues, working as, among other things, a student practitioner in the Loyola Immigration Clinic.

And somehow she was able to find the time to be the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Interest Law, where she led a campaign to raise more than $2,000 for Syrian refugees who had arrived in Louisiana.

“She did more than most editors do,” Media said.

“I don’t know how she’s done all of that,” Hiroko Kusada, a professor who supervised Locascio’s law clinic work, told the Louisiana Record. “For the clinic, she took on every case with a passion and kindness. She was always the first to volunteer and she even mentored other classmates. I can teach students to do things, but I can’t teach them compassion or empathy.”

Locascio is also active in the New Orleans community, volunteering at Catholic Charities in its Immigration and Refugee Services program.

Medina said Locascio plans to take the Louisiana Bar exam in July and then travel to South America to hone her Spanish-speaking skills.

Watching the quiet student blossom into a strong leader with a passion for service has been a rewarding experience for both professors.

“She embodies what the Jesuit community is all about,” Kusada said. “She really exemplifies the mission of public service and helping the less fortunate.”

“I can see her continuing to surge ahead,” Medina said. “She is truly committed to public interest work. She’s going to make an incredible advocate for people who don’t have the resources to access the legal system. I’m in awe of her.”

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