During my spring break 1L year I spent an amazing week in Miami with four of my classmates. When you hear spring break and Miami in the same sentence your mind might jump to Ultra or Miami Beach, but we were actually in Miami to spend the week working at VIDA (http://www.vidalaw.org), a legal assistance center which primarily aids immigrant women and families who have lived through domestic abuse.
Every spring BC Law send a number of 1L student groups to do volunteer legal work around the country. My 1L year students traveled to Arizona, Denver, New York, New Orleans, and Navajo Nation. These trips are a tradition at BC Law, and are completely student run, with 2L alumni of the trips assisting 1Ls to plan and fundraise.
The planning for the trips starts pretty early on in the school year. After a general information session applications go out for the various trips. My 2L mentor had gone on the immigration trip the year before (although to a different location) and told me she really enjoyed it so that was the one I decided to apply for. We found out pretty quickly which students got spots on which trips and right after we found out the immigration trip students (which included groups going to a variety of cities) we started fundraising.
We had a number of different means of fundraising. One of our major money-makers was working in concession stands at BC hockey games, where we got to keep the proceeds (or some portion, I’m not exactly sure) of what our stand sold for the night. We all also undertook projects we planned. I planned a Valentine’s Day candy-gram sale for the 1L class, and classmates of mine planned bar reviews, bake sales, and a number of other fundraisers. The school also helped us out by matching the funds we raised. We ended up raising enough money to pay for all of our flights and hotels for the week. I felt pretty lucky because the cheapest accommodation my group could find in Miami was a beautiful apartment on a vacation rental by owner website. Not too bad for a volunteer trip!
After flying down to Miami we started our week by driving out to Naranja, which I remember being about a half an hour away from where we were staying. Our supervisor for the week, Mercedes, told us she had gone to law school specifically to do the type of work VIDA does. While VIDA offers a variety of services, what we were concentrating on that week (and which I remember being their emphasis) was working on visa applications and renewals for women (and their families) who had witnessed crimes. Mostly they were women who had been abused by their husbands and were allowed to apply for residency in connection with testifying for the prosecution of the abuse.
This was my first opportunity to do legal work since entering law school, and it was so rewarding to be able to help people! Mercedes set us up with the correct immigration forms and we worked with a number of families to help them fill out the paperwork and collect the right documentation. I had spent a year after graduating from college teaching English in Spain, so I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak Spanish with a couple of the family members. It was inspiring to hear their stories and to see how much the work meant to Mercedes. Mercedes was an amazing host, and on our last day she took us to visit an area where many of her clients live, to a very cute local farm/ smoothie stand (http://www.robertishere.com/our-story/), and a delicious Mexican restaurant. After our work week ended we had a couple more days to spend in Florida, and we went on a tour of the everglades to see alligators and visited Miami Beach to do some shopping and get lunch. All in all a very productive and enjoyable week in Florida.
A few months later our group got an email from Mercedes:
I am writing to share some amazing news with you and to thank you on behalf of our clients! The cases you worked on during the Spring Break Week have been approved. The two families you helped wanted me to send all of you an email to thank you for your assistance and to let you know that their dreams to become Lawful Permanent Residents have become a reality because of your help!…
I would also like to thank you for your assistance and for demonstrating an interest in our agency and the work that we do! I wanted you to know about these approvals because I think it’s important for you to know that you made a tremendous difference in 9 lives in just one week that you were here. Imagine the difference you can make in a lifetime of dedication and commitment to the legal field!
Thank you again and I look forward to hosting students from your school for the next Spring Break!!
What an amazing way to start our careers as attorneys! Mercedes and her dedication to her work continues to be an inspiration!
I am a 3L here at BC Law, as well as being in my final year of a Masters in Higher Education. If you are thinking about coming by BC for a tour you’ll probably see me at my job in the Admissions Office. I’ll be posting every week about an aspect of life as a student at BC Law. If you have any questions comment here and I’ll answer for everyone!