March 21, 2017

Many students from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law chose to engage in hands-on, law-related volunteer work during their spring break week. Held from March 4th to 12th, the DC Alternative Spring Break Pro Bono Service Project provided students with the opportunity to serve their community, gain exposure to the world of public interest law, build connections with legal services providers, and earn pro bono honors.

CUA Law students were placed at CAIR Coalition, Christian Legal Aid of D.C., Hogar Immigrant Services, Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Mothers' Outreach Network, and Neighborhood Legal Services Program. Students were tasked to assist on a variety of projects, including staffing a detention hotline, assisting with clinic intakes and naturalization workshops, conducting outreach to families in need of shelter, and researching legal issues. These projects ranged from a single morning or afternoon commitment to a weeklong placement.

The DC Alternative Spring Break Pro Bono Service Project was sponsored by the Columbus School of Law, American University Washington College of Law, George Washington University Law School, and Georgetown University Law Center.

Student Reactions:

"During Alternative Spring Break, I had the opportunity to do pro bono hours at Neighborhood Legal Services Program. While I was there I sat in on client meetings, wrote closing memos, researched DC family law, and drafted letters to send to clients. I was also able to speak with the staff attorneys about their experiences at NLSP as well as what led them to working there. My goal is to work in legal services practicing family law and being able to spend time in that setting and with the gracious staff members who were eager to offer advice and answer questions was a terrific experience." - Heather Doerr, 3L

"For my Alternative Spring Break experience, I volunteered at a Saturday workshop offered by Hogar Immigrant Services. The workshop was is an organized event, in which applicants step through stations to eventually have an application submitted for citizenship. I appreciated the thorough training I received, as the trainer was able to identify areas on the application to pay special attention to and how to address potential issues. I learned a lot, and best of all, I helped a young woman complete her application on her path to citizenship!" - Anita Alanko, 1L

"Volunteering for both the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless (WLCH) and the Christian Legal Aid Clinic in D.C. (CLADC) during this year's Spring Break was a very rewarding experience. I am grateful to the Clinics for giving me the opportunity to provide assistance to individuals who were not aware of their legal rights and did not have the means to afford legal counsel. During my service, I discovered that most of the individuals I assisted did not have access to Internet and didn't own cell phones. Further, many lacked an income or even a place to call home. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to know your legal rights without direct access to information, and found it so rewarding to help those who could not help themselves. Through the WLCH, I provided homeless individuals with information on how to access shelter for the near future. Through the CLADC, I provided people staying at the Central Union Mission with information regarding more specific legal needs mostly concerning social services or other civil issues." -Joseph Moran, 1L

"While much of the work that I did that day was simply entering information I was able to get a small picture of the people that are affected by the immigration laws in this country. I was able to see a trend of people who came from Central America and some who claimed there was a fear to return due to gang violence involving themselves or a family member. Even though I played such a small role, it was a great feeling to know that these detainees would get a fair review by the attorney's of the CAIR Coalition and that they would help as much as they could." - Brittany McNurlin, 1L

"I found my pro bono placement gave me a chance to get some hands on experience with the basics of immigration law. The basic form required to request citizenship is twenty-two pages long so helping immigrants get this form filled out correctly was both a fulfilling and eye-opening experience." - Andres Cruz, 2E

"I volunteered for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless on Monday, March 6, 2017. I enjoyed this experience because it allowed me to engage directly with the community that WCLH serves and provided me with insight into the laws that protect the homeless community and their effectiveness on the issue of homelessness in D.C. I was proud to be able to provide important and helpful information to men, women and children at the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center." - Bademba Barry, 1L

"My experience was both intriguing and fulfilling. At its highest point, you could feel the genuine appreciation that people expressed just to have someone listen to their situation and offer a helping hand. On the other hand, I was often left wanting to do more for those people that I had met. I'm really grateful to have participated." Arthur Osueke, 3L