Students Start Orientation Week with Local Community Service Projects
Every year before classes begin, law students, faculty, and staff get together to participate in community service projects around the Washington, D.C. area. Since 2003, In My Back Yard (IMBY) has been organized by the school’s rising 2L Interest/Public Service Scholars and the Office of Public Interest.
The annual event held on Tuesday, Aug. 15, kicked off JD orientation, and allowed new students to become acclimated to the city while returning students, faculty, and staff reconnected with their community.
“IMBY is a great way to get to know our peers and the community,” said Nina Janne ‘20, an incoming 1L from Southern California. “As future lawyers, having a service mentality is key. Starting off the year serving others really gets you in this mindset and instills you with a commitment to public service.”
Participating organizations included Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Manna Food Center, and A Wider Circle, where volunteers assisted with the organization’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, providing basic needs to community members struggling with poverty.
Founded in 2001 by American University alumnus Mark Bergel, CAS/MS ’87, CAS/PhD ’96, A Wider Circle’s mission is simple: to help one individual and one family after another to rise out of poverty. The organization works in partnership with the people they serve and with those seeking help to “ensure that every child and adult has the chance to succeed and the opportunity to live well.”
Ellen Barr, a volunteer coordinator for A Wider Circle, told the group, “Poverty looks different on paper than in person, so we don’t turn anyone away. The organization is able to serve 25-30 families each day, 365 days a year, and we could not do that without our volunteers. The number one way to help end poverty is to get involved and make these connections in the community.”
A Wider Circle’s services are provided free of charge and include their Neighbor-to-Neighbor Program, which provides beds, dresses, tables, and home goods to families transitioning out of shelters, escaping domestic violence, or otherwise living without their basic needed items; a Workforce Development program that includes resume writing, interview skills, career path identification, and more; a Wraparound Support Program in which volunteers works as party of a group to provide support to an individual or family to address barrier to independence; and their Neighborhood Partnerships Program in which residents work side-by-side with non-profit, government, and for-profit partners to transform their community out of poverty.
This year’s volunteer sites included:
- A Wider Circle (Silver Spring, MD)
- Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (NE DC)
- Carpenter’s Shelter (Alexandria, VA)
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore (Alexandria, VA)
- So Others Might Eat (SOME) (NoMa-Gallaudet)
- National Center for Children & Families (Columbia Heights)
- Manna Food Center (Gaithersburg, MD)
- Free Minds Book Club (NW DC)
Participation in IMBY counts toward the law school’s Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program, which recognizes graduating students who have completed a minimum of 75 hours of pro bono legal assistance and community service.