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April 15, 2013

'Raise the Bar' volunteers
JOSEPH HARPER, LUKE WOOLEY, AND ROXY GBETIBOUO assemble sandwiches for bagged lunches for Pinellas Safe Harbor, a homeless shelter in Clearwater. Volunteers for the joint project organized by law students at Stetson University and Cooley Law School made lunches and bags filled with dental supplies for more than 400 people in need.

Law students work to ‘Raise the Bar’

By Megan E. Davis
Associate Editor

In one day, they offered encouragement to underprivileged youth, fed the hungry, and helped grieving families of homicide victims.

Hundreds of law students, attorneys, judges, and volunteers from across Florida joined together to complete a diverse sampling of one-day service projects in their communities for this year’s Raising the Bar event.

Organized annually by the Young Lawyer Division’s Law Student Division, the event features projects organized by law schools throughout the state and encourages lawyers, students, and volunteers to serve those in need.

Allie Menegakis “One of the main goals of the Law Student Division is to bridge the gap between law school and the legal profession,” said Allie Menegakis, president of the division. “This is a perfect forum for us to do that, and not only do that, but to reach out to those in need in our communities.”

In Gainesville, law students at the University of Florida partnered with local bar associations, including the Josiah T. Walls Bar Association, and other student organizations at the university to host the Youth Law and Justice Conference for the second year in a row.

More than 70 middle and high school students attended the daylong conference, where they learned about different areas of the law through workshops, participated in a mock trial, and interacted with adult mentors, Menegakis said.

“They acted as lawyers, witnesses, and jurors and loved it,” she said. “It was a fun day for them to learn about the law but also a fun day for them to hang out together at the law school and meet with mentors in the community.”

Bar President-elect Eugene Pettis spoke at the conference, sharing his story and encouraging the youth to work hard and believe in themselves in order to become successful adults.

About 25 law students at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale and volunteers spent a day assisting the LifeNet4Families Cooperative Feeding Program.

The volunteers helped with daily operations in the community kitchen, which provides hot meals and meals-to-go to the homeless and economically disadvantaged.Danielle Kaye, who organized the project, said she found the work especially meaningful.

“It really opened my eyes to see them walk in and see that such a big part of the population is homeless,” she said. “It just made people feel very fortunate that we get to go home to our houses every night, have food on the table, have clothes, and enjoy ourselves.”

In Jacksonville, students at Florida Coastal School of Law teamed up with the Hispanic American Law Student Association and the Criminal Law Society to raise $500 for Compassionate Families through a cornhole and bingo tournament, said project organizer Aaron Labreque.

The organization provides short- and long-term counseling to grieving families of homicide victims.

Ave Maria students collected more than 50 books for children and held lunch for more than 250 children and family members at Grace Place for Families and Children in the Golden Gate community of Naples, said project organizer Jaime Hewitt.

The agency provides preschool and afterschool clubs for children, helps families learn English, and provides support for families.

Menegakis said she was pleased with the opportunity for volunteers to work together to make a positive impact in their communities.

“People really do connect with other people on this day,” she said. “It brings the legal community closer together.”

[Revised: 09-15-2014]