Annual Project connects new La Verne Law Students with Local Nonprofits
Handling a wheelbarrow filled with mulch is not how most students envision beginning the next step in their academic career. Yet that was precisely what Anthony Aveles and Chris Woods, a pair of newly enrolled students at La Verne Law, did on a hot August afternoon at the West End Shelter for Animals.
“They’re teaching us our first lesson,” explained Aveles, an Upland resident who earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of La Verne. “Stay committed to the community no matter what career path you take.”
The two were part a group of first-year La Verne Law students – also known as 1Ls, participating in the law school’s annual Community Service Project. Prior to the start of the new academic year, 1Ls donate their time at nonprofit organizations within the local community.
“We want to give back to our community and show the role of public service to our first-year law students, getting them started on the right track,” said August Farnsworth, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs & Career Services. “We have quite a few of our students at the West End Shelter for Animals, and the rest are at Queen of Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center.”
Students, faculty and staff joined by family and friends assisted with a wide variety of projects at the Ontario-based shelter and Queen of Hearts Ranch in nearby Jurupa Valley. Along with mulching, they cleaned and stripped items, painted buildings, helped establish a garden, and even spruced up a few horseshoes.
The 1L Community Service Project relates directly to Community & Civic Engagement, one of the core values contained in the University of La Verne Mission Statement. Ultimately, it also achieved two key points that La Verne Law Dean Gilbert Holmes views as essential outcomes.
“The first is La Verne being in the community. We are partners here and we try to manifest that partnership as much as we can,” said Holmes. “The second thing is these are brand new students and they can bond together on things outside the classroom. I believe it enriches their experience at the law school.”
Emptying the wheelbarrow was a personal accomplishment for Woods. But he also understood the rationale of the day.
“You go to law school to learn the law, and you know there are different outcomes. The overall purpose is to help society, and every little bit helps,” said Woods. “That’s the whole purpose of law school; helping out society and giving back to people who need it.”
That career lesson is a strong one for the students. At the same time, the partnering organizations receive an important dividend: time.
“There are so many who have come today. They can get so much accomplished in a single day that would take us a long, long time to ever get done,” said Anne Lindquist, Director of San Bernardino County’s only no-kill, nonprofit shelter. “We really appreciate the help.”
The same sentiment was voiced at the project’s other site.
“All the help they did, cleaning up and keeping our property built up, it’s important. It gives us a lot more time to spend with our clients,” said Robin Kilcoyne, Founder and Executive Director of Queen of Hearts Therapeutic Riding Center (TRC), Inc.
The center has offered its therapeutic horseback riding program since 2000, the last eight years at its present location in Jurupa Valley. It provides a supportive, dynamic environment for the development of Inland Empire children and adults who face special challenges.
“What we do here is small miracles. Every day we have people who, through no fault of their own, have physical, mental and emotional challenges,” said Board of Directors member Karen Bradford.
Crystal Rorabaugh, a Riverside resident who has returned to the classroom after being out of school for what she terms “a long while,” sat scrubbing a tarnished piece of iron as she reviewed all she’d done during the afternoon.
“I have scooped up horse dung and made garden beds. Now we are scraping rust off of these horseshoes,” said Rorabaugh. “Maybe I should take one of these home with me.”
Several volunteers worked in “A Peaceful Place to Grow,” a garden area where clients and their family members can work or spend quiet time following a session. It is where Fontana resident Andrea Rodriguez spent part of her day.
“The people who work here tell me this place empowers,” she said. “As a lawyer, you want to help empower people, teach them about the law so they know their rights and what they deserve.”
Working alongside Rodriguez was her father, Francisco, and her mother, Arlene. They volunteered their time because they know the coming years will be hectic for their daughter.
“At orientation they told us she and the other students will be spending all their time studying law. So we figured today we could get some valuable family time together,” Francisco Rodriquez said. “We have always been very united in everything we do.”
Kilcoyne said the students took away more than just sore muscles and a few blisters.
“If they’re going into the legal field, one of the things they need to know or may even be interested in learning about is caring for, and the rights of, those with disabilities,” said Kilcoyne, who has spent the past 25 years as a paralegal. “If they’re doing medical malpractice or contracts or anything to do with insurance, there is so much more to learn. And this, therapeutic riding and alternative therapies, is such a growing field right now.”
While she had yet to sit in on her first law class, Rorabaugh appreciated what she and her new classmates had learned.
“Lawyers have a special position and need to give back. You become a voice for those who have none,” she said. “You have to give back to your community. If you don’t, the community doesn’t last.”