Limitless Woman: Lawyer, Pastry Chef, Activist, Volunteer

Sometimes you meet amazing people in the most unexpected places. I met Meredith Takahashi at a Surf Camp in the Dominican Republic. Meredith comes off as easy going, genuine, and humble. But once you get to know her, you’ll quickly realize that she is beyond smart, successful, and unique. Read my interview with her below and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Meredith’s Roles/Jobs:
  • Lawyer with her practice in Austin, Texas
  • Pastry Chef and Founder of Mère Made Sweets
  • An Ambassador for the Miracle Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on supplementing and elevating the quality of care of orphanages in India.
  • Yoga Enthusiast and Future Yoga Teacher
  • World Traveler Who’s Visited: Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos,Thailand, Dominican Republic, Mexico, India, South Africa, Japan, France, England, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Spain
  • Active Volunteer and Activist in the U.S. and Abroad:
    • Co-facilitated a home-building project in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
    • Taught general education and baking in Cork, Ireland and Belfast, Northern Ireland.
    • Worked in various local orphanages supporting families and children with AIDS in Cape Town, South Africa.
    • Researched and authored international law and policy recommendations. Reported findings and recommendations to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights delegation at the Geneva Conference and presented “Trafficking of Women and Children Research Findings and Draft Resolution Recommendations”
1. What are you currently doing or working towards that you would like to tell us about?

As a lawyer, I am working on building my law practice in Austin, Texas in the areas of Family, Entertainment, Probate and Immigration law as well as Child Advocacy. I’m currently working on a truancy law reform project for Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit law center. We plan to use my report to advocate for truancy law reform at the next legislative session.  I’m also working on impact litigation around juvenile justice issues and immigration issues, and on emergency advocacy around the child refugee border issue.

I am Chairing the Grants Committee for the Fresh Chefs Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and empowering youth aging out of foster care who are interested in culinary endeavors and/or who need independent living/life skills in the kitchen.  We are building our organization and applying for capacity building grants.  I also serve as a “guest chef” in our guest chef program.

As a pastry chef, I bake with kids through the Fresh Chefs Program and like to cater special events throughout the year.  I’ve also done some baking for cafes around town through my made-to-order bakery Mère Made Sweets.

I am an Ambassador for the Miracle Foundation.  In that role, I fundraise for the organization and raise awareness of the issues facing children in orphanages in India.  I traveled to India this past spring to work on educational projects with children at the Savalee Orphanage in India.



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2. Who or what has inspired you to do all of this? 

I’ve always been interested in child welfare issues both in the US and globally.  I went to law school because I wanted to represent kids in family court, which I did in NYC for about six years working for the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice.  I feel lucky that my family was loving and supportive and I was inspired when I learned the importance of that and how so many children don’t have that experience.

I also enjoy having my own practice. I’ve always wanted to have my own business. In Austin I’m surrounded by so many entrepreneurs, start-ups and small business owners, so I was inspired to start my own practice when I arrived here two years ago.

As for baking, my nana baked with me a lot growing up.  I continued to bake through the years and after she passed away, I decided that I wanted to do more with that passion. So I earned a diploma in baking and pastry arts at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. Click to learn more about Meredith’s culinary journey.

Meredith Pastry Chef

3. What drives you to go beyond the norm and put so much time and effort into doing so many different things?

There is so much to do!  There is so much that needs to be done and that I enjoy doing.  I like being busy. Being busy with a lot of different, interesting projects keeps life exciting and opens doors to many relationships, which I value.  I always want to do work that I’m passionate about and to invest in others.  I find a tremendous amount of hope and feel inspired in doing that.

4. What challenges have you faced in pursuing these different interests and goals, and how do you balance it all?

Balancing time commitments can be difficult and I need to be really organized.  Working on difficult issues, especially in child welfare and family issues can get emotionally draining.  I have gotten burned out in the past.  I also tend to get impatient when change doesn’t happen quickly or if outcomes take long to achieve.

But I often try to take a step back and think about my work to gain perspective. Traveling is a great way for me to do that.  I always try to get back to a place of feeling grateful for being able to do work that I enjoy.

5. What specific steps did you have to take to get to where you are today?

After growing up in Naperville, a city west of Chicago, I moved to Boston and majored in Political Science and Art History at Boston College.  While there, I spent six months studying abroad in Ireland. I traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland and was a camp counselor in a cross-community effort that put together Catholic and Protestant kids.

I was also involved with different volunteer groups during college.  I worked in the jails in Boston and did some volunteer projects in rural Mexico.

After college, I drove cross-country with a friend and moved to San Francisco, where I attended law school at USF School of Law.  While in San Francisco, I interned for the Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic, where I worked with domestic violence victims. I also worked with inmates through a program with the Sheriff’s Dept, and interned at Human Rights Advocates, where I researched the trafficking of women and children and presented my research to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland.

While in law school, I spent two months over the summer living in Cape Town, South Africa, where I took constitutional law and human rights classes and did some volunteer work.  After doing some policy work, I moved to DC, where I finished up my last semester of law school and interned for the Legal Aid Society.

After a year in DC and sitting for the MD bar exam, I received a grant through my law school to work with kids in criminal court in Brooklyn, NY. I was so at home in NYC and loved it so much that I decided to stay.  So I sat for the bar exam and started working for the Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Right’s Practice. There, I represented kids in child protective, PINs, custody, adoption cases for six years.

I took a brief sabbatical to be agency counsel for a private adoption agency, where I helped coordinate adoptions and researched international adoption law and policy issues.

After returning to Legal Aid after my sabbatical, I decided that I needed a change.  Encouraged by friends in Austin, I decided to move there. I set up my own law practice and started doing some dessert catering on the side.

meredith takahashi

6. Did you ever imagine doing things like this as a teenager? How have you changed since those adolescent years?

I thought I would do child welfare work but I never imagined having my own practice.  When I was a teenager, I hoped to travel and live in different places but I never imagined that I would have been able to live everywhere that I’ve wanted to and to do most of the things I’ve wanted to do.

7. Is there anything you would tell your teen self if you could go back in time?

Enjoy every day and do lots of things that scare you.  Don’t give up.  Make mistakes and learn from them.

8. Are there any other jobs, roles, or goals that you want to pursue in the future?

I look forward to being a mom in the upcoming years.

 

 

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