Making a Difference Trumps Getting a Tan
In the spring of 2007, 14 University of Idaho College of Law students headed for post-Katrina New Orleans to unwind. Specifically, to unwind the red tape that tends to bundle into a Gordian knot when governmental, social and legal infrastructures are swept away.
The students participated in Alternative Spring Break, helping victims of Hurricane Katrina to untangle legal issues and providing manual labor, free of charge.
It’s a decidedly different kind of spring break.
“The trip was a success because it was both eye-opening and a great application of our legal skills,” said law student Jordan Taylor. “We were actually helping people, not just discussing legal theory. Everybody that went on that trip will confirm two things about their experience: one, they had never seen anything like it; and two, the trip impacted their lives in a big way.”
In 2008, students returned to New Orleans, La., ventured into nearby Biloxi, Miss., and also provided pro-bono services in Boise and Washington, D.C.
In New Orleans and Biloxi, students helped victims secure and maintain FEMA benefits, and dealt with foreclosures, insurance disputes, and disputes with landlords and contractors. They also will provided manual labor.
In Boise, students worked with Idaho Legal Aid, the ACLU, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, the State of Idaho Appellate Public Defender, Advocates for the West, and the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
In Washington, D.C., students worked with the National Veterans Legal Service Program.
At their Gulf Coast destinations, Idaho law students partnered with the Student Hurricane Network (SHN), a national association formed to provide legal assistance to Hurricane Katrina victims. Through the SHN, more than 3,000 law students from 110 law schools have traveled to the Gulf Coast to provide pro-bono service in the past two years.
“There will be ample opportunity in our lives to take vacations,” said recent law graduate, Anna Faller. “Students who choose to go on an Alternative Spring Break trip do so because of the opportunity to positively impact the lives of others. The experience allows us to spend a week providing legal services to those truly in need.”