Students Set Tone for Service with 2010 IMBY Day


On the morning of the 2010 In My Backyard Day on August 17, the lobby at American University Washington College of Law was filled with talkative students eager to spread out into the city to donate their time to 12 non-profit organizations for the day.  The day connects students, faculty, and staff with the school’s mission of public service.   It gives incoming students a glimpse of how the law school is connected to its local community, and encourages them to continue volunteering throughout the year. 

David Jaffe, associate dean of student affairs, got the events started with remarks to highlight the purpose of the day.

“Regardless of what your goals are, we have an obligation as attorneys to serve,” Jaffe said.  “Take advantage of your time at the law school.  This is your time to enjoy, to learn, and to get to know your classmates.”

2L Evan Wilson was handing out t-shirts in the lobby as students prepared to head out.  He was also the site leader for A Wider Circle, a group working to combat poverty through empowerment.  This was his second IMBY Day.

“It’s a great experience,” Wilson said.  “I had lived in DC for a few years before law school, so it was great to work with organizations in the city, while also getting to know my fellow students.  It set a tone for public service for the entire year.” 

Ryan Norman, another second year student, regretted not participating his first year, and made sure to get involved this time around. 

“I had heard about everyone having such a good time getting involved and getting to know each other,” Norman said.  “I had to be here this year.”

First year student Carson Osberg was eager to get started.  She had been assigned work with the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which meshed well with her interest in issues related to homelessness and human trafficking. 

“I think it’s awesome that this is done during orientation week,” said Osberg, who came to WCL from her hometown of Chapel Hill, NC.  “It’s a great opportunity to get to know each other, and I don’t know of any other schools that do anything like this.”

First year student Arli Christian spent the day working at the Sasha Bruce House, a residential program for youth in DC who are in need of a safe and stable place to stay and counseling services for them and their families.

“We repainted the iron fence around their property,” Christian said.  “The work was hot and sweaty, but time passed quickly as we got to know each other, and by the end of the daythe fence looked good as new.”

Christian’s group met some of the Sasha Bruce youth while working at the house, and learned more about the program from its staff members.   They signed up for the organization’s mailing list, and Christian is hopeful to continue to volunteer at the center.

“An important part of the day was simply being exposed tosuch a wonderfulcommunity service organization and seeing what other people are doing to help underserved populations in DC,” Christian said.

In the morning meetings, Dean Jaffe closed with a quote from Peter M. Cicchino, a beloved professor with a passion for public interest work who passed away in 2000:

“Our lives are the only things that are completely ours. The kind of life we make is the most important work, the single most significant project we will ever undertake.  I suppose what I am trying to say is that in my own life as I have struggled with the question of what makes a good and happy human life, I have become ever more convinced that struggling to secure the conditions for a decent human life for others is a large part of the answer."

IMBY Day is planned by 2L public interest/public service (PIPS) scholars, and is sponsored by the Office of the Public Interest.  More information on the day, including the full list of participating organizations at