The Growing Pains
July 27, 2016
EVENT DATE: Sep 11, 2016
THE NITTY GRITTY
As an athlete, attorney, and an immigrant, I am using my desire to help immigrants who are in need of legal assistance to keep me motivated while I train for and run my first marathon! My goal is to complete 26.2 miles in the Erie Marathon on September 11, 2016 in Erie, Pennsylvania, and to raise $10,000 for a legal assistance fund for immigrants being established by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
Along with my family, I immigrated to the United States and settled in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1995 following the genocide, war and dissolution of Yugolslavia. I was six years old and spoke no English. Now, as an Associate Attorney with Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace, LLP in Hermitage, PA, I am developing the firm’s immigration practice which will serve western Pennsylvania. Erie is the fifth largest resettlement city in the United States and yet currently there are not any attorneys practicing immigration law in Erie. I feel privileged to be in a position where I can have an impact on immigrant populations in a meaningful way.
Working with the Sisters of St. Joseph and by linking initiatives, I hope we can connect immigrants in need of legal counsel with appropriate services and offset the costs with the help of this fund. Through this fund we hope to supplement costs of legal services, provide monetary support for immigration-based initiatives, and develop the opportunity to give back to the immigrant community in a meaningful way. Thank you in advance for your donations and support.
Ajla Glavasevic, Esq. is an Associate Attorney with Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace, LLP focused on developing the immigration practice, while additionally working in additional legal arenas. She earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 2014 and primarily focused on juvenile rights, prisoners' rights, immigration, and social justice.
THE LONG VERSION
I couldn't feel my legs as I crossed the finish line. Tears welled up in my eyes as the pain in my lower back shot up through my arms. An overwhelming feeling of success and accomplishment flooded me as the tears fell and I bent over holding on to my knees. "Never again," I thought to myself. Thirteen point one miles was far enough. Never again. I lied to myself those three years and 13.1 miles ago. I lied in saying, "never again."
I lied in thinking that I would not push myself beyond the utmost limits of what I could only dream to do. As a gymnast, volleyball player, track and field athlete, Division I track and field heptathlete, and former USA Women's Bobsled athlete, I lied in thinking that I would not hurt and long for the hurt, pain, tears, and absolute joy that comes from pushing one's athletic limits. Needless to say, I did not think I would be gleefully clapping and celebrating at the confirmation page of the Erie Marathon Registration website three years after the treacherous half marathon. The gleeful cheering quickly subsided as it was overtaken by fear - fear of failure, fear of not finishing, fear of the mental strength required to run 26.2 miles, fear of embarrassment. There was a lot of fear. But as history would have it, there was not a lot of failure, at least without lessons learned.
In an effort to create a substantive motivating force that would hold me accountable to my decision, I decided to combine my competitive nature and hardworking spirit with my commitment to community-focused social justice initiatives. My current social justice focus: immigration.
While immigration has become a trending, highly scrutinized, and publicized social arena polarizing politics and impacting millions, immigration has been a process that has directly affected me and paved my life's path. I was six years old when my grief-stricken family boarded an airplane with one suitcase only to travel thousands of miles from war-torn Sarajevo, Bosnia into what was deemed the land of the free, the land of opportunity. By the time we reached our government-issued apartment on Thirteenth Street in the “not so nice” part of downtown Erie, Pennsylvania, we had spent three years listening to bombs, grenades, sirens, and gunshots, had rationed food to make sure we had enough to eat, but mostly, we lived in fear - fear of lives too short lived, those taken too early. Life in the United States was drastically different than in Bosnia.
There were great adjustments to be made, a new language to be learned, jobs to find, schools to enroll into, friends to be made, skepticism to be overcome, grief to be managed, mourning to endure, family to contact, and a new life to be built. Life, as we would quickly learn, was not at all easy. My sister and I wore thrift shop clothes and hand-me-downs. We learned English and attended summer school to catch up on school. My parents hunted for jobs after being well educated in Bosnia – my mom running a family practice as a physician for seventeen years and my father, a navy commander. They rationed paychecks, saved every dollar, sent money to Bosnia, and vowed to rise above the challenges that so often seemed to be insurmountable. Life was far from easy.
My personal experience within the immigration process into the United States fueled a passion to assist individuals enduring the same challenges I was lucky to surpass with the assistance of some incredible individuals I now call “family.” I want to help others’ change their lives and the trajectory of their futures.
Growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania made one thing clear – although small, Erie was extremely diverse with ethnic populations. It continues to maintain its status as the fifth largest resettlement location in the United States for refugees, immigrants, and asylees. Despite the high demand for immigrations services and assistance, there are no immigration attorneys in Erie, and very few accessible attorneys until one reaches the Pittsburgh area. Western Pennsylvania is in dire need of legal immigration assistance and accessibility to legal services.
When I began working for Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace, LLP in January 2016, an all-inclusive law firm that handles the spectrum of legal issues, they were looking to build upon their immigration practice, which in turn gave me the opportunity to work in a field of law I love. I, as an Associate of Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace, have teamed up with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northeastern Pennsylvania, particularly their social justice branch focused on immigration issues, to raise money for individuals in Western Pennsylvania in need of financial assistance to access legal immigration services.
My hope is to raise enough money to create a fund that would give those in need the opportunity to obtain competent legal counsel for immigration issues, but I need your help! You donate, I run…26.2 miles! Please consider donating to our fund so that we can work to change lives for the better. The Erie Marathon will be taking place on September 11, 2016. We will be taking donations until that time. Since Sisters of St. Joseph is a non-profit organization, all donations will receive tax write-off documentation.
Also, stay tuned as I will be blogging the adventure I experience through my marathon training! Let’s change some lives together!