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The Nelson Fellowship Program

An Educational Summer Program for Public School Students in Boston and Worcester

Judge David S. Nelson

The Judge David S. Nelson Fellowship is a summer educational program, offering a stipend.

Every year, the court selects approximately twelve Nelson Fellows. Each fellow is assigned to a judge and works in that judge's chambers. The Nelson fellows attend trials and other court proceedings with their assigned judge and assist in office operations and court management.

The Fellows also take part in structured classes, in subject areas such as civil rights, literature and writing.

During this intensive summer program, students meet community leaders, visit local colleges, and are introduced to organizations that facilitate the college application process.

The final and most exciting event is the mock trial before a federal judge. Throughout the summer, the Fellows prepare for the mock trial under the guidance of legal professionals.














Who was Judge David S. Nelson?

Judge David Sutherland Nelson was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1933 to immigrant parents. He was educated in Boston's public school system, and went on to graduate from Boston College in 1957 and from Boston College Law School in 1960.

Judge Nelson worked as an attorney in private practice from 1960 to 1971. From 1971 to 1973, he served as Chief of the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts. In 1973 he was appointed by Governor Francis Sargent as a Justice of the Superior Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 1979, he was appointed Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts by President Jimmy Carter, becoming the first African American appointed to the Federal Judiciary in this district.

Who is eligible?

This program is primarily for public high school students in Boston and Worcester who have shown leadership potential and academic ability. Juniors are preferred although the program has taken sophomores and seniors.

How and when should I apply?

We will be accepting applications for the 2020 Nelson Fellowship in January of 2020. Check back to access next year's application link.

The application should be accompanied by your high school transcript, a letter of recommendation from either an instructor at your school or counselor at your high school, your resume, and proof of U.S. citizenship. Instructions for completing the application will be found on the online application.

If you have any questions about the program, please reach out to

What can I gain from the program?

The Fellows learn about the judicial system and the legal community, and often develop a mentoring relationship with their assigned judicial officer and his or her staff.

The Fellows also develop:

      • Leadership skills
      • Confidence
      • Networking skills
      • Reading and writing skills
      • Oratory skill
      • College preparatory skills
      • Friendships

      Nelson Fellowship Program Sponsors

      The Honorable
      Patti B. Saris

      "Every summer I look forward to meeting the Nelson Fellows. I enjoy sharing my trials, explaining constitutional rights and watching their enthusiasm in participating in the mock trial."

      The Honorable
      Richard G. Stearns

      "A dozen Nelson and Lindsay Fellows over the years have become part of my extended chambers family. Whatever my law clerks and I have been able to teach over the course of too short a summer has been repaid a hundred times over by the joy of following the Fellows' life experiences and successes as they grow into adulthood. The Fellows are a living legacy honoring the memory of the two great judges whose names will always be connected to theirs."

      The Honorable
      Denise J. Casper

      "One of the highlights of my first year on the bench was working with the Nelson Fellows and Lindsay Fellows this past summer. The Fellows were a bright and energetic group who were so eager to learn about civic responsibility and the judicial system. It was pleasure to work with them and I look forward to welcoming new classes of Fellows to the Court in the years to come."

      The Honorable
      Judith G. Dein

      "Having the Nelson Fellows here has always been a highlight of the summer. These students bring with them a diversity of experiences and thirst for knowledge that energizes all of us. You know that these Fellows are going to go on to accomplish a lot in their lives."

Other Fellowship Opportunities:

The court appoints a Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator each year for a two year commitment. The Deputy Coordinator typically becomes the Coordinator after the first year. (The terms are staggered.) These two positions are normally filled by past Fellows. The Coordinators term is longer than that of the Fellows - the start date is usually around the third week of May and ends during the third week in August.

An education stipend is offered.

Alumni: Keep in touch!

Please send your updated contact information to the Clerk's Office:

Comments from past alumni:

Steve Guan, 2000:

“It is a shame that I never got to meet a wonderful man as [Judge Nelson] but I am glad to carry his name for the rest of my life as a Nelson Fellow.”

Oneda Horne, 2003:

"Judge Nelson was a man who was greatly concerned with second chances. He believed in serving his community by providing services to those who needed them. The Nelson Fellowship perfectly exemplifies these important values which Judge Nelson held most dear."

Jose Santiago, 2003:

"The Nelson Fellowship not only taught me who Judge Nelson was, but it also pushed me to re-evaluate myself and find out who I am."

Keshav Persad, 2006:

“Being able to call myself a Nelson Fellow will forever be a status I will hold in high honor. Partaking in this program allows me to affiliate myself with one of the titans of man, Judge David S. Nelson.”

Rosanna Lograsso. 2008:

“The Judge David S. Nelson Fellowship is one of the most difficult but gratifying journeys I have ever encountered. I use the word journey because that fully describes the fellowship. In a short period of time, I have grown drastically. I have improved verbally, sociably and above all I have learned to believe that nothing and no one can stand in the path of my dreams.”

Gladymir Joseph, 2009:

“This program has instilled a confidence in me which has enabled me to challenge myself by furthering my ambitions and goals. The Nelson Fellowship program is truly a life changing experience, and if I could, I would do it every summer.”

Magaly Rojas, 2011 (on the Community Dispute Settlement Center mediation program):

"It was a great experience. My perspective of anger has changed completely. This three day seminar allowed me the opportunity to learn not just about mediation but how I can apply mediation tactics in real life."

Ginny Hurley 1957 - 2015

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