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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Guest Blog: "Clean Slate Clinic"

Posted By Kristen Fritz, Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Clean Slate Clinic"

In just a few hours, you can help to drastically change someone’s life for the better.


Like most people, I hope that my life will have meaning and that I will positively impact those around me. In short, I want to make a difference and I seek out opportunities to do so. I am compelled to write about a recent experience where I did a small task that made a huge difference in someone else’s life. Two weeks ago, I volunteered for the second time at the San Diego Clean Slate Clinic. The Clinic is held once a month, staffed by volunteer attorneys, law students, and members of the community. Training is provided, so no experience is needed. The Clinic provides free legal information, NOT legal advice, to help individuals reduce or expunge their criminal records. Although the law makes provision for this, the process is complex and confusing, and most people seek help from the Clinic. In recent months, they have had nearly 50 participants in a given day. 


At last month’s clinic, I worked with a woman who was a mother of three. She had a felony conviction that was preventing her from getting employment, housing for her family, credit, and education. Although I cannot discuss the specifics of her matter, I can tell you that the facts that lead to her conviction (for which she pled guilty acknowledging her wrongs) would leave you shaking your head, and I know that you would be in awe of the wonderful and giving woman that she is. It is clear that she is not a “criminal,” but a person who committed a crime and she deserves a “clean slate.” 


In a few hours, we assisted her in the preparation of court forms and a declaration to have her felony reduced to a misdemeanor, and then to have the misdemeanor expunged. We made the copies she needed, gave her an instruction sheet on where to go, confirmed she understood what she would need to do to file the petitions, and sent her on her way to change her life. Throughout the hours we were together, she repeatedly thanked us for being at the clinic, for giving of our time and ourselves, and for helping her to get back on the path to achieving all that she wanted to in her life. I assured her that it was truly my pleasure to be there with her.

 

I left the clinic feeling elated that I could make a difference in one person’s life, but I began to wonder how many people the Clinic could help if they had more volunteers. I learned that the Clean Slate Clinic has had to turn away 10-15 participants each month over in the past few months, simply because they did not have enough volunteers to assist them. It shocks and saddens me that something can be done to help people and the only thing standing in the way is not enough people to do it. 

 

The Clinic’s co-founder, Keiara Auzenne, told me that they could easily scale up the Clinic to serve more participants if they could count on a specific number of regular volunteers each month. Therefore, I encourage—and implore—you to sign up and join me at the next Clinic on November 5, 2016, just after Pro Bono Week
(October 23-29)
, and/or to commit to volunteering at the Clinic on a regular basis. 

 

Together we can make an exponentially greater difference in the lives of so many people! 


Kristen Fritz wrote this on behalf of the Lawyers Club Community Outreach Committee and hopes you are inspired by Pro Bono Week. 

Tags:  clinic  COC  community outreach committee  expungement  LCB  pro bono  pro bono week  san diego clean slate clinic  volunteer 

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Celebrating Two Decades of Outreach Through Reading

Posted By Michele Macosky , Monday, August 29, 2016
Celebrating Two Decades of Outreach Through Reading
 

It is amazing to think that it has been 20 years since the first Read-In at Central Elementary School in City Heights. LC member Jan Atkinson launched a Career Day Read In event and established Lawyers Club’s formal “Partnership in Education” with Central in the 1996-1997 school year. A few months later, as the new chair of what is now the Community Outreach Committee, I was tasked with further developing and overseeing this partnership. At a meeting with the school, we brainstormed plans for the first Halloween Read-In.

This was before email really took off, so organizing meant long cold calls to everyone I knew asking them to participate—and then individually faxing confirming information. I would describe the intense need at the school, where even today, every student qualifies for free breakfast and lunch and must overcome daunting economic disadvantages. The children are in need of role models to encourage things like a love of reading, staying in school, going to college or considering a dream career. 

For twenty years, I have humbly watched our volunteers flood the school at read-ins to be these role models. It didn’t take long for us to add a Spring Read-In. After the first few years, La Raza Lawyers Association joined us to recruit Spanish/English bilingual readers for bilingual-designated classrooms. Our volunteers have brought books, treats, school supplies, and most of all themselves—with many dedicated readers returning year after year, and new readers always joining in. I have watched firsthand as our volunteers—from city officials to first-year law students—inspire the kids to fulfill their own potential.

Still, the needs at Central remain great. I was told by Central staff that there is no money in the budget for basic school supplies this year. The kids return towards the end of August, and they are missing things like paper, pencils, markers and items needed for the school to open. I know the families are not in a position to make up the difference for each child. Even worse, kids in the 4th and 5th grades are in non-air-conditioned trailer-classrooms where temperatures rise to the point that teachers have to stop lessons to ensure the students are okay, despite the heat. High temperatures will persist through the October Read-In, and teachers in these classes asked me to see if our members would help donate fans. Sooooo, the COC created an online wish list through which our members can donate. I am truly hoping that the wishlist link goes viral and people forward it to everyone they know who might donate. Every little bit helps and in the aggregate, we can make a huge impact on the 800+ small children at the school who have so many obstacles to overcome.

Helping kids is a passion for me. I believe that to change society we must outreach to the next generation. If we empower and teach our values to the children, we change the world. Twenty years later, organizing the read-ins is one of the most important and fulfilling things I do. This year, we celebrate two decades of Read-Ins at Central Elementary School on Monday, October 31, 2016 (Halloween) from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Mayor Kevin Faulconer will speak and read to kids. I am always grateful to the returning readers who continue to make such a difference and excited to welcome new volunteers to what has become my favorite and most meaningful Halloween tradition. Join us by emailing me at Macosky@san.rr.com.

This blog post was authored by Michele Macosky. Michele Macosky practices employment law and is a Harry Potter fan.

Tags:  anniversary  COC  Community Outreach Committee  Halloween  read-in  reading 

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