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Legal Aid welcomes Juvenile Justice Attorney, Kato Craig

Kato Craig is Legal Aid of Nebraska’s newest Associate Attorney. Kato works with the Juvenile Justice Project, which provides attorneys to serve as Guardians Ad Litem, or counsel, to parents and children in law violation cases, abuse/neglect cases, and truancy cases.

What brought you to Legal Aid?

I have long sought a life of public service. As a person who was brought up on the lower side of the poverty line, my life experiences have shaped and conditioned me to be a champion of social justice. As a high school dropout who sat on the status offender end of the bench in Juvenile Court, I feel that Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Juvenile Project is the perfect place for me to hone my skills as an attorney while making significant change in the lives of our Nebraska youth. I live by the philosophy that we are stewards to this world, and as an attorney working with the next generation, I have the perfect opportunity to do my part in rearing the next generation into responsible citizens who may one day do their jobs as stewards to this beautiful planet.

What do you find most compelling about the Juvenile Justice Project?

Most compelling to me is the opportunity to help the youth of our community. Often times, when someone needs assistance from Legal Aid, or when they have been referred to the juvenile court system, they are at a point of desperation and a lifetime low. We are in a unique position to really make a positive change for those people who, often times, feel they are helpless in our dynamic society.

Where did you complete your law degree?

I completed my law degree at the University of Nebraska College of Law.

What did you imagine yourself doing with your degree?

I always envisioned myself in public interest. But I was not sure where I would be. I always knew that I wanted to help those who cannot help themselves or who have fallen through the holes of the social safety net.

Who has inspired you the most in your career/legal journey?

A good man named Doug Kerns aided me when I was at an all-time low and helped me to realize my worth and my calling. Most notable to his influence on me was his demeanor and care. He wasn’t necessarily aiming toward the goal of leaving some sort of impression. He was just doing what he thought was right. I couldn’t be more grateful. I made a terrible decision at the age of 18. Locked behind bars in the county jail, I had no idea when or if I would be released. I had been charged with a felony and was ready to rot in jail for the poor decisions that led me there. My girlfriend (now wife) called Mr. Kerns out of desperation, as we were young and had just met Mr. Kerns through a family friend. He answered the phone and told her he was already on his way to the jail to meet with me. He gave me a fist bump through the glass wall, instilled a sense of value and worth to my existence in society, and offered to take my case for free.

It was at that moment, when I was completely helpless, stagnating in my own self-pity, reflecting on the poor decisions that led me to jail, that a good human being with a solid foundation and knowledge of the law showed me that I was worth more to the world than I ever thought I could be. A lawyer, whom I barely knew, saw value in me, a high school drop out with a felony charge. By showing me that there was value in myself, he helped to kindle a flame that has only grown bigger. I realized that I wanted to be like him. I wanted to help people in dire straits. I wanted to show people their worth, and I wanted to pull them out of the depths of despair and kindle their flames so that they may exist with a sense of worth and meaning. I still harbor that flame, and I thank Doug Kerns for helping to kindle it.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like to fish and kayak throughout the warmer months. I play in a volleyball league with my wife. I love to listen to and play music. I try to write songs and poetry when the inspiration hits. I spend loads of time with my kids and try to give them the life I never had. I also occasionally play Magic the Gathering with my cousins. Just a girl-dad, really.

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