Welcome back to Spring Break Pro Bono Highlights. Today, we are highlighting the University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI). During Spring Break 2017, UCI Law sent 22 students to Mississippi to work with the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ). The students volunteered with MCJ’s three offices during their trip.
According to their website, Mississippi Center for Justice is a non-profit, public interest law firm whose mission is “to create a just society is a desire to build healthy communities across Mississippi. By engaging elected officials, faith-based leaders, media, community activists, educators, childcare providers, healthcare professionals and other advocacy partners, the Mississippi Center for Justice provides the legal perspective to policy initiatives that improve the lives of Mississippians. With offices in Jackson, Biloxi and Indianola, the Center seeks systemic solutions that promote educational opportunity, protect the rights of consumers, secure access to healthcare, ensure equity in disaster recovery and put affordable housing within the reach of all Mississippians.”
This was not the first time that UCI students had worked with Mississippi Center for Justice. UCI students traveled to Mississippi to do spring break pro bono work with MCJ for the past seven years (since 2011). Anna Strasburg Davis, Director of Pro Bono Programs at UC Irvine School of Law, told us that for this year’s spring break trip, “MCJ was an amazing host, as always!”
We also heard from UCI Law 2L Sean Lobb. Sean visited Biloxi, MS for the second year in a row to volunteer with the Mississippi Center for Justice during his spring break. Sean describes his experience with MCJ below.
This year for my spring break, I had the pleasure of returning to do Pro Bono work with the Mississippi Center for Justice for my second year. Twenty-one other University of California, Irvine School of Law students and I were able to split up and work in three different communities within Mississippi. It was a phenomenal experience where I was able to do pro Bono work in the poorest state in the country. This year, I worked alongside my peers to continue in helping those that were affected by the BP Oil Spill. Seven years removed from the disaster, workers who helped to clean the spill still have medical claims pending before the settlement program. I was able to help speed up the settlement process for some of these workers, many of whom get their relief checks delayed for months at a time based on minor technicalities. The work was extremely rewarding, and it was a great to represent those who are undeserved within the community. I certainly plan to return to Mississippi during my last year of law school to continue these pro bono efforts, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to go to a law school that is so supportive of Pro Bono work!
UCI Law Student Sophie Tarazi, Class of 2019, shared her experiences volunteering with MCJ in Indianola, Mississippi.
I was fortunate to spend my spring break in Indianola, Mississippi working for the Mississippi Center for Justice. Throughout the week, I researched Mississippi education law, focusing on public availability of school board disciplinary policies. This is incredibly important for the families of students who are disciplined at school; when those families are not aware of their due process rights and the degree to which the school can use capital punishment, students and families are robbed of their ability to advocate for themselves. After searching through the Mississippi state code and relevant regulations, I drafted an amendment to a current statute as well as an amended policy for the Mississippi Department of Education. If and when enacted, these amendments will increase the agency that Mississippi students and parents have in advocating for their rights at school. This project was immensely rewarding, and helped me understand to a larger extent the legal and political obstacles faced by the Mississippi Center for Justice. I am also thankful to UCI Law for enabling me to participate in this alternative spring break program, and for its ongoing commitment to pro bono and public service.
What an inspiring story of spring break pro bono! Thank you UCI Law students for all of your pro bono work in Mississippi!
Check-in again tomorrow as we continue our series on Spring Break Pro Bono Highlights!