Public Service in Action
Oregon Law’s Future Public Service Leaders Make a Difference in 2011-12
By Jane Steckbeck, associate director for Public Service Initiatives
Oregon Law students are remarkable in the time and energy they commit to improving our communities through public service. Despite full-time academic schedules, work and family obligations, students show up in big ways for the underserved. The following is a brief summary of some of the excellent contributions of Oregon Law’s student public service groups in 2011-12.
Pro Bono Program
An energetic Pro Bono Board launched a variety of new projects to encourage greater law student pro bono participation. In the fall of 2011, Pro Bono Board member Shelley Aschenbrenner led a group of students in teaching classes through St. Vincent dePaul’s Second Chance program. This program helps the homeless re-enter the rental market. Under the leadership of the Pro Bono Program, students are now teaching classes in Landlord-Tenant relations, effective dispute resolution, and Fair Housing law. In addition, a group of bilingual Pro Bono Board members and others translated Landlord-Tenant and Fair Housing outlines into Spanish, and now teaches classes at Centro LatinoAmericano as well.
In addition, the Pro Bono program continued its partnership with the Lundquist College of Business to sponsor a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program site, (“VITA”) offering tax preparation assistance to low-income individuals. Eager to reach others in need, the Pro Bono Program teamed up with the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) and led a spring break VITA trip to the Coquille Reservation in Coos Bay.
Finally, the Pro Bono Board concluded its year in collaboration with OLSPIF by hosting the Pro Bono/OLSPIF Recognition Ceremony, honoring outstanding Pro Bono Contributions of 2L Joshua Eastman and 3L Vannia Glasinovic. The Board also conferred the Nicole Richardson Outstanding Service Award on Shelley Aschenbrenner and Bryan Boender.
The Oregon Law Students Public Interest Fund (“OLSPIF”)
A dedicated OLSPIF Board embraced its fundraising mission with high intensity and produced yet another record-breaking fundraising year. Its fundraising events included two November events: the Partners in Public Service Reception in Portland and the new Flurry of Giving (online and in-school sale of snowflakes), and of course, its February auction at the Eugene Country Club. OLSPIF expects to be able to offer between 14-16 stipends for the summer of 2012.
OLSPIF awards stipends to fellow law students to accept public interest positions that would otherwise be unpaid. The importance of OLSPIF’s work cannot be overstated: a stipend-funded student helps a budget-strapped organization meet its client-service needs, and the clients themselves get vital assistance. As important, many stipend recipients gain hands-on, life-changing experience.
To conclude an excellent year, OLSPIF conferred two awards at the Pro Bono/OLSPIF Recognition Ceremony: the Bandiero Award for Outstanding Public Service Attorney and the Hitchcock-Kenna Award for Outstanding Public Service law student. The Board selected Mike Quillin of the Stop Violence Against Women Project for the Bandiero Award, and Cassie Champion for the Hitchcock-Kenna Award.
Public Interest Public Service Program (“PIPS”)
The PIPS program presided over several activities and events designed to get students engaged in service. During fall orientation, PIPS hosted Public Service Day in which students visited organizations and completed hands-on service projects. Organizations served have included the Relief Nursery, Mt. Pisgah, the Raptor Center, various community gardens and others. For its spring Public Service Day, PIPS teamed up with the Pat Tillman Foundation, in which 30 law students teamed up with 15 Tillman scholarship recipients to renovate a low-income apartment building!
In addition, PIPS presented its fall symposium hosting panels on civil rights, criminal and immigration law, featuring keynote speaker Minouche Kandel. PIPS also co-sponsored a canned food drive with the Women’s Law Forum benefitting Food for Lane County and led its annual Thanksgiving Basket drive. Thirty-one student groups and faculty generously donated, resulting in PIPS helping to feed 32 families.
In early winter, PIPS participated for its second year in the Polar Plunge, in which PIPS Faculty Director Tom Lininger and seven students actually jumped into the Willamette River to raise money for Special Olympics Oregon!
Finally, PIPS capped off a successful year with its fourth annual Dom Vetri “Champion of Public Service” award, conferred on April 10, 2012, to two outstanding recipients, David Hall of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, and Pamela Brown of the Bi-National Family Violence Project.
Loan Repayment Assistance Program (“LRAP”)
Oregon Law’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program offers up to three years of forgivable loans to graduates employed in low-paying public service positions. Law students advocated for an LRAP program in the early 2000’s, and Jackie Romm ’81 gave LRAP its start with a $200,000 + endowment before her death in 2004.
Other gifts have helped LRAP to grow, but until this year, student involvement in LRAP has waned. In the fall of 2011, two first year students, Stephanie Davidson and Linda Bruce joined the LRAP Board bringing renewed student interest and advocacy. As a result of their efforts, the LRAP Program will host its first reception honoring LRAP Recipients on April 26, 2012.
A robust LRAP fund is needed now more than ever! While LRAP funded 12/15 applicants in 2012, Oregon Law students graduating in 2011 carried an average debt load of over $94,000. Without added financial support, public service positions are entirely out of reach for many graduates.
Whether advocating for the growth of Oregon Law’s LRAP fund, coordinating efforts to feed hungry people, helping other students afford public service work or providing legal services to vulnerable populations, Oregon Law students made a big difference for people and organizations in need in 2011-12. For more information on Oregon Law student public service, contact Jane Steckbeck.