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- 2016 - March - 14th -
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Several University of Florida Levin College of Law students volunteered during spring break. They are, from left, front row: Natasha Williams, Andrea Wagner, Caroline Labarga and Cate Nowak; middle row: Goliath Davis, Kenisha Cromity and and Niraj Thakker; and back row: Chris Parmele and Ben Silva.

Pro bono spotlight: UF law students help others on spring break

By Kathy Para, The Jacksonville Bar Association Pro Bono Committee Chair

Recently, a team of nine University of Florida Levin College of Law students — led by third-year student, Ben Silva — donated a large portion of their spring break to help people in need.

The students provided assistance at Three Rivers Legal Services, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Clara White Mission.

Beginning their work at Three Rivers and with coordination from attorney Chardea Murray, the students provided guidance and assistance to people seeking to seal criminal arrest records.

Because of their efforts, eight people were able to submit their applications to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

That will mean a barrier to gainful employment will be overcome. It provides hope for family stability and a productive life.

For two days, the team assisted at JALA in the Consumer Advocacy and Litigation Unit under the supervision of attorney Ariel Cook.

Their job was to contact applicants seeking assistance with matters such as foreclosure defense and bankruptcy. The students gathered additional case information and further defined the legal issues.

In their conversations with applicants, the students provided assurance the cases would be reviewed thoroughly and their issues were not overlooked.

The mere attention to case details reassures applicants and bolsters them as they face stressful and overwhelming situations.

The students ended their service by serving a meal at Clara White Mission.

For all of us in positions of privilege, this experience is an important reminder that food insecurity plagues much of our population here in Northeast Florida and across the state.

The organizations seeking to alleviate this problem serve some of our most vulnerable, including children and the elderly.

These organizations are meeting basic needs with compassion and dignity and need our support.

The students also had opportunities to meet with JALA staff attorneys to discuss career goals and various facets of practicing public-interest law.

They concluded their spring break project with a reception at Holland & Knight, at the invitation of partner Buddy Schulz.

Law students expand the capacity of legal services organizations nationwide. Their assistance increases access to justice for low-income people in rural and urban areas.

The team from the University of Florida law school met each of the challenges with a willingness to learn, enthusiasm and a commitment to help those in need.

Sincere appreciation is extended to each member of the team for his/her service and contributions here in Northeast Florida: Ben Silva, Goliath Davis, Kenisha Cromity, Andrea Wagner, Caroline Labarga, Chris Parmele, Niraj Thakker and Cate Nowak.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities in the 4th Circuit are encouraged to contact Para at kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org.

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