From a young age, Tilisha Martin knew that she wanted to be a presence in the courtroom; becoming a lawyer was a lifelong goal. However, it wasn’t until she found herself working in a clerical position at San Diego State University that she truly began to think about the role social work could play in law. Seeking guidance, Tilisha reached out to Judge Napolean Jones, a man who had walked the path from MSW to law school and beyond. After a heartfelt discussion about the strengths and advantages that a degree in social work would provide, Tilisha knew that she was on the right path and enrolled in SDSU’s MSW program with future plans to attend law school.
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During her time as a student at SDSU, Tilisha pursued the Title IV-E Child Welfare Stipend Program which focuses on public child welfare with a variety of communities. During her internship within the program she collaborated with many Native American tribes in the San Diego area, supporting children and families involved in the judicial system. Working with children was incredibly rewarding and inspired the child welfare specialty that she would later study in law. The program allowed her to experience firsthand what she would be encountering in the field post-graduation. It also shaped her belief in the importance of standing up for children who may not be cognizant of their rights as an individual. “I represent youth because they are a vulnerable population and they are our future. What our youth have to say matter. As their attorney, I have the ability to support them in hopes that they will feel empowered to overcome the many challenges they face while involved in the juvenile justice system.”
After graduating from SDSU, Tilisha went on to graduate from California Western School of Law with her Juris Doctor. She has worked as a deputy public defender for the San Diego County Public Defender and, most recently, as a supervising attorney for Dependency Legal Group of San Diego as well as a professor at her alma mater Cal Western. Tilisha finds that her degree in social work has allowed her to be more collaborative, understanding, and supportive with both clients and the employees that she manages. Tilisha returned to SDSU as a professor to teach both undergraduates and graduates about child welfare issues for many years. She has earned numerous awards, including the Distinguished President’s Award by the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association. She also is involved with many local and international organizations, such as the San Diego Lawyers Club and the American Bar Association. Tilisha looks forward to graduating with a master’s degree in justice management from the University of Neveda, Reno in December this year with a focus on researching the role of minor’s counsel, cultural humility, and the impact on reunification of families. She continues to stay in touch with SDSU through alumni events and has a valuable presence in the community of public interest.
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Written by: Paloma Pierce