Aug. 29, 2019 — Before completing their first week of classes, first-year students at the University of Houston Law Center fanned out across the city to help those in need and form friendships with new classmates by volunteering for a wide range of community service projects.
Dean Leonard M. Baynes initiated the program at the start of his tenure in 2014 as a means of instilling a sense of public service in the aspiring lawyers. The program, which includes faculty and administrators, has grown from a single day to several days in August with projects ranging from legal aid to parks beautification.
“I am delighted that a program that started five years ago has grown in size and scope." said Baynes. “Each service project provides the students with an opportunity to learn something about the community and its needs. It is evident from each project that there is a critical need for access to justice by members of our community.
“No matter what the students decide to do in practice once they graduate, I hope that this experience will instill in them a desire to do service to help improve our community.”
This year, students gained first-hand legal experience assisting Houston Volunteer Lawyers as they provided advice to veterans and their spouses at the Debakey VA Medical Center and later to people in need of help on a variety of issues at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center. Students also volunteered at a naturalization workshop at the Hiram Clarke Multiservice Center where they helped immigrants fill out applications.
Those looking for a little physical activity outdoors before settling down with law books, volunteered at the McGovern Centennial Gardens in Hermann Park and Beauty’s Community Garden in Independence Heights, a client of the Entrepreneurship Clinic and a source of healthy vegetables for needy residents living in a “food desert.” Students assisted in mulching, raking, weeding and preparing beds for planting.
As in previous years, students also assisted at the Houston Food Bank where they prepared food packages for distribution to the needy.
"It is wonderful to see the impact that students can have before they have completed a week of law school," said Associate Dean of Alumni and Community Relations Sondra Tennessee who coordinates the annual event.