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Penn State Law students volunteer at AIDSLaw during spring break

Penn State Law students volunteer at AIDSLaw during spring break

While many law students spend spring break catching up on rest and relaxation before the end of the semester crunch, eight Penn State Law students traveled to New Orleans and spent their spring break volunteering with AIDSLaw of Louisiana, a nonprofit agency which provides legal services to low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. AIDSLaw of Louisiana is in the process of becoming a part of NO/AIDS Task Force, which is an organization that provides a full spectrum of care for people affected by HIV/AIDS.

“Upon arrival at AIDSLaw, one of the executive directors of NO/AIDS Task Force gave us an extensive tour of the agency, which really set the stage for the rest of the trip,” said second-year student Mary Laurie ’13, who organized the trip. “We were able to see the scope of services that NO/AIDS provides to the thousands of people that come to its doors each year – from a food bank and housing assistance to a full clinic with doctors and a pharmacy designed to provide for the special needs of HIV/AIDS patients.”

Throughout the week, Penn State Law students prepared a memo analyzing impending legislation that would affect HIV positive individuals across Louisiana, summarized important Social Security issues relating to HIV/AIDS patients, developed brochures for the office that detailed the legal issues confronting those with HIV/AIDS, and wrote a 10-page memo detailing HIV/AIDS disaster in the Gulf Coast. Students also participated in client conferences, assisted in preparing affidavits, and interviewing clients.

“We worked with students from Villanova Law at AIDSLaw and interacted with students from Georgetown Law who were working at the New Orleans Public Defender’s Office next door. Overall, it was a great mix of analyzing legal issues, writing about policy concerns, and interacting with clients,” said Laurie.

Started in 2007, the Penn State Law’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program encourages students to embrace their public interest responsibilities as lawyers by doing public interest work during their spring break. Former ASB projects have included traveling to New Orleans to help victims of Hurricane Katrina rebuild their homes and lives.

“Working in public interest is an eye-opening experience,” said Miguel Lilly '14. “We read about needs, but participating firsthand makes what we read a reality. I plan to return next year and strongly encourage other students to consider participating in this worthwhile and rewarding program next year.”

“The Alternative Spring Break program is just a small, but fundamental, part of the Law School’s public interest programming. Penn State Law students do a tremendous amount of pro bono work throughout the school year as well,” said Kate Cramer Lawrence, director of public interest programming.”

At the end of the week, the students enjoyed a bit of the vibrant New Orleans culture by trying fried oysters, po-boys, and shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake.

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