During spring break, March 17-23, students had opportunities to participate in Alternative Spring Break, organized by the Law Career Development Office. Fifty law students took part in 15 different pro bono activities — led by organizations such as Maryland Legal Aid, Pro Bono Resource Center, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service and Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts — as well as several community service projects. Khadyne Augustine, Class of 2020, shares her experiences.
I was hesitant to sign up for Alternative Spring Break, as I thought I had enough schoolwork to keep myself busy all spring break. However, the social worker in me could not miss an opportunity to engage in meaningful, non-law school-related activities. I signed up for pro bono and community service activities, and I am still reminiscing on the experience.
Both experiences were quite fulfilling, and the pro bono opportunity with the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) was interesting. I have volunteered with HPRP before at its veterans clinics. At those clinics, I helped attorneys conduct intake interviews of veterans seeking Veterans Administration benefits.
This week, however, I had an opportunity to work on the substantive process of determining a client’s likelihood of success on various claims for benefits. This was especially rewarding for me because it put in perspective the importance of lawyers’ and law students’ role in advocating for those in need.
Applying for VA benefits is no easy feat, and an alarming number of veterans would have little to no success if forced to do so without the assistance of attorneys or law students.
In addition to the pro bono activities, I also participated in community service activities with organizations like the 6th Branch, Paul’s Place, and Catherine’s Family. Each of these experiences was remarkable. These experiences, too, put into perspective the importance of having lawyers and law students give back to the community.
There were times that I would get frustrated at the thoughts of the inequities that people in disadvantaged communities face daily. Some of the challenges include poor living conditions; a shortage of food, clothing and shelter, and a lack of extracurricular activities for school-aged children.
I implore all students to participate in Alternative Spring Break next year. The feeling of fulfillment most certainly outweighs the thought of giving up your free time.