Four hours north of Phoenix, situated almost exactly on the Arizona/New Mexico border, Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation. On March 2, I made the journey west with seven of my classmates to spend a week with the Navajo, learning about their government, law and culture, and doing our best at placements with the Presidents Office, the Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court.
I was fortunate to spend a week at the Supreme Court. The Court itself handles about a dozen cases each year, as well as countless orders and motions relating to those cases. The two of us assigned to the Court spent most of our time researching and writing orders, putting our Law Practice skills to the test. While I personally have a long way to go before I’m comfortable tackling research and writing problems on my own, honing my skills under the direction of the Supreme Court staff was immensely helpful.
Though this New England guy spent hours gaping at the landscape and rock formations we saw traveling through Sedona, Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest, and laughing over the most authentic Mexican food I’ve ever been within a thousand miles of, the highlight of the trip was Navajo people. At work and out in the community, I was never less than amazed by the candor, friendliness, wisdom, and authenticity of the people I met. The first year of law school doesn’t always make it easy to find stable ground, but in Window Rock I stumbled upon a sense of purpose and shared history that made the present seem worthwhile and the future manageable.
Not only is Navajo Nation itself steeped in tradition, so is BC Law’s involvement with the Nation. The break rooms of each agency had a stash of BC Law mugs, the clerk of the Supreme Court had been giving tours to law students for years, and the Quality Inn sign was lit up with “Welcome Boston College” as we arrived, a friendly message that stayed up all week, despite the fact that we weren’t the only school in residence.
The Navajo Nation Pro Bono trip is part of BC Law’s Leaders Entering and Advancing Public Service program, or LEAPS. It’s one of four BC Law Pro Bono Spring Break Trips which require significant travel. In total, sixty-six students participated in these week-long excursions, traveling to seven states, eleven cities, and partnering with eighteen organizations.
This year, trips included the Gulf Coast Recovery Trip, which spent the week in Houston, the International Human Rights Trip to New York City, and the Immigration Trip, which encompassed four different sites around the country, from Oklahoma City to Folkston, Georgia.
The pro bono trips are entirely self-funded, and students begin the logistical process as soon as their placement is confirmed in the fall. Though the planning adds yet another item to already overcrowded plates and the fundraising situation can get decently hectic, having the chance to put our burgeoning legal skills to the test while learning about new communities and cultures makes these trips the highlight of the year.
Read more about the service trips from BC News: Pro Bono, On the Road
Brett Gannon is a 1L at BC Law and a brand new Impact blogger. He welcomes feedback at email@example.com.