The Catholic University of America


First Lesson of Law School: Community Matters

Sometimes the smallest gestures make the biggest impact: a cleaned window pane, a new coat of paint, a pristine path through nature or a young person who is willing to simply listen.

Catholic University’s incoming first-year law students offered all of that and more during 2010’s Community Service Day, held on Aug. 20th. More than 90 students—roughly a quarter of the class— responded enthusiastically on the final day of orientation week to the invitation to integrate a commitment to serving others into their personal and professional lives.
The students gave generously of their time and energy and showed every sign of whetting their appetites for more. This year, the community-minded 1Ls were bused to three area sites to spend the day as volunteers. Two sites were located nearby the law school in the Brookland neighborhood: Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and St. Anthony’s Catholic School. A third group of students traveled a bit farther to help clean up a section of Washington, D.C.’s beautiful public space, Rock Creek Park.
At each location, the new law students pitched in to help with whatever was needed. At St. Anthony’s, for example, they cleaned, scraped and repainted classroom walls, floors and hallways, and even helped prepare and hoist the school's basketball hoops.
One of the greatest gifts the students were able to offer the residents of Carroll Manor, at least temporarily, was the alleviation of loneliness. Many of the residents of the nursing home have infrequent contact with the world outside, and they basked in the attention and gentle interaction with the kind men and women young enough to be their grandchildren. One resident, who is a former dance instructor, led a group of students in an impromptu dance lesson, eagerly teaching them the Electric Slide.
Rock Creek Park also proved to be a popular outing. Some of the students, new to the D.C. area, had not seen it before and seemed impressed with its tranquil beauty. They picked up trash, glass and assorted litter from alongside a section of the creek near a heavily used public pavilion. 
And so it went, the half day of volunteer community service hopefully helping to instill a public-service mindset for the rest of law school and beyond.