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Dainen Penta '97

Lawyer serves the vulnerable

Around the time Dainen Penta '97 turned 40, the Seattle lawyer underwent an existential crisis of sorts. "My priorities began to change," he says. "I really felt pulled to the nonprofit sector. I enjoyed helping people on an individual basis, and that was something I missed."

Penta, who practiced consumer bankruptcy and real estate law for 15 years, is now the executive director of Spokane's Center for Justice, which provides free legal services and advocates for a just community. As director, Penta leads a variety of areas, but above all, he says, "We're always trying to achieve our mission to make a better Spokane, a better world."

Flexibility and compassion are key, Penta says, since the center assists people who are living in poverty, are experiencing homelessness, and who have severe mental health issues. "We also do a lot of work to change policies and laws around how we treat the most vulnerable members of our society," he says.

Penta, who double majored in French and international studies at Whitworth, says the university's mission reflects the center's efforts. "You can try to change people's minds," he says, "but a lot of times you really have to change their hearts." One way the center is working to change people's hearts is by telling its clients' stories, which transforms them from those people to individual human beings. 

As demanding as Penta's new job is, he also finds it deeply rewarding. "It's really nice," he says, "to go to work every day and feel a sense of joy."

Dainen's story appears in the spring 2019 issue of Whitworth Today magazine.

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