Tampa Bay Students Celebrate October with a Month of Giving Back to the Community
Amy L. Bandow
Assistant Director of the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism at the Thomas M. Cooley Law
On October 4, 2013, Tampa Bay students kicked off a month-long celebration of giving back to the community through pro bono work and public service. The month began with a special Pro Bono Pledge Ceremony in which students gathered before the Honorable Catherine Peek McEwen, a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Middle District of Florida and chair of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit’s Pro Bono Committee, to learn about the importance of pro bono work and to pledge their commitment to making pro bono service a part of their law school and legal careers. Students learned not only about the rewarding feeling one gets by helping those who cannot afford to hire attorneys, but also about the benefits pro bono service provides to the court system and the role it plays in professional development.
The following day, students turned their pledge of commitment into action by participating in a Wills for Heroes event organized by the local Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section of the bar. Through this program, first responders in Hillsborough County, such as police officers, were able to meet with attorneys and receive basic estate plans - free of charge.
The volunteer activities continued throughout the month with information sessions about volunteer opportunities, bilingual students interpreting at court hearings through the Cooley Communicates program, students volunteering at a Bay Area Legal Services project to help self-represented individuals complete petitions for injunctions against domestic violence, and students helping staff a pro bono information table at the courthouse during the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Week (week of October 21).
October concluded with the culmination of a project that began the prior month: “Homeward Bound for Those Who Served,” a project to help those who have given so much – veterans. Organized by the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, in partnership with the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Community Services Committee, Homeward Bound aimed to fulfill “wish lists” of veterans with limited resources who are terminally or chronically ill and living in foster homes. The “wish lists” contained items such as basic necessities and, perhaps, something small for enjoyment – a book, board game, gift certificate to a fast food restaurant, etc. Tampa Bay’s Military Veterans Law Student Association (MVLSA), the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism, and Associate Professor Stevie Swanson joined forces to “adopt” some of the veterans and fulfill their wish lists. Professor Swanson adopted two of the veterans and held a friendly competition between two of her classes to see which class could fulfill every item on the respective wish list first. Due to the great efforts of the MVLSA and the generosity of Professor Swanson’s students, Team Cooley collected hundreds of dollars in gift cards and nearly 30 bags full of gifts. Students then spent the last Saturday morning in October delivering gifts and visiting with the veterans to express gratitude for their service.
If you are interested in participating in pro bono work, volunteering, or public service activities organized by Cooley’s Center for Ethics, Service, or Professionalism, please contact Amy Bandow, Cooley’s Assistant Director of the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism, at bandowa@Cooley.edu or (813) 419-5100, extension 5108.
*Pictured from left to right are Tampa Bay students Uraina Steward, Shawlonda Johnsonbarnes, Maria Boudreaux, Martha Aristizabal, Debra Steele, Christine Laney, and Brain Sklaire.
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