November 6, 2007
News & Events
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Erjona Fatusha, Senior Paralegal, Tobacco Project
Once is never enough. Usually, Erjona Fatusha must repeat her name several times to ensure that new colleagues pronounce her name properly. “It’s not Ilana, Rehana or Arizona,” Erjona laughs. “It’s pronounced eh-Ree-o-na.” While good-natured about the creative pronunciations her name often generates, the 25-year-old native of Albania is serious about “fighting for a cause” as the senior paralegal for NAAG’s Tobacco Project.
NAAG’s Tobacco Project, comprised of three paralegals and seven lawyers, works to coordinate and support state enforcement, implementation and defense of the landmark 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (“MSA”). The provisions of the MSA are designed to reduce tobacco use and protect consumers from its deadly toll.
Since joining the project in May 2005, Erjona has followed the status of tobacco-related litigation throughout the country and she interacts daily with tobacco contacts in the states and territories, as well as tobacco industry representatives across the globe. She also provides logistical support for conference planning and travel arrangements, and monitors project funds and expenses.
It is her desire to help others that has motivated her since her family fled to the United States in 1997, following civil unrest in her native Shkoder, the largest northern city in the southeastern European country of just three million. Erjona’s family settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where she finished high school and later attended the College of Wooster, a small liberal arts college in northeastern Ohio. In her senior year, she wrote a 120-page research thesis titled, “Color Lines: A comparative analysis of policymaking of race policies in Britain and France.” She also managed to spend a semester in Dublin, Ireland at the Institute of European Studies. After receiving her bachelor of arts degree in political science, she focused on launching a career in international relations and law.
However, after several return trips to Albania, her focus has shifted to education and community building with an eye towards NGOs (non-governmental organizations recognized by the United Nations) and the very real possibility of returning to her native country.
In spite of a demanding travel schedule, once a week, she volunteers as an instructor to teach English to recent adult immigrants. She also tutors young children who are HIV positive.
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