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USF Students Serve Local and Global Communities

April 14, 2009

USF School of Law students served local and global communities during spring break, participating in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York City, the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, and Rural Education and Access to the Law (REAL) events in Bakersfield and Watsonville.

USF School of Law Students at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

As participants in the law school's International Human Rights Clinic, three students travelled to the CSW to work on issues relating to migrant workers, refugees, and internally displaced persons. Seven students attended the HRC to advocate for food and water rights, counterterrorism and human rights, voting rights, freedom of information laws and the rights of human rights defenders, juvenile justice, and corporate accountability.

USF School of Law Students and Associate Director of International Programs Julianne Cartwright Traylor (third to the right) at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in New York City.

"The clinic exposed me to the complex, intriguing, and important world of international human rights at the United Nations," said Amol Mehra 3L, who focused on corporate accountability for private military and security companies while in Geneva. "The work reinforced my interest in a career advancing the promotion and protection of human rights."

Listen to Amol Mehra 3L present at the U.N. here (click on the icon below the Human Rights Advocates header).

The students prepared written reports and oral statements on their topics, and four students made statements before the CSW or HRC, faculty advisor Professor Connie de la Vega said. Students also participated in educational events and drafting resolution sessions, interacting with government delegates, non-governmental organizations, and inter-governmental organizations such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

"Our participation as advocates was valued by those delegates and members whom we spoke with, each impressed by the quality of our work," Mehra said. "This is a true testament to the strength of the clinic."

Closer to home, seven USF law students traveled to the Bakersfield area to assist immigrant workers and seniors in the community during the first of two REAL spring break trips organized by the Public Interest Clearinghouse. Working with the Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance (GBLA), students helped 30 families fill out English-only applications for naturalization. Students also staffed a senior legal clinic at GBLA, assisting 17 seniors create simple wills and advance health care directives.

The second REAL spring break trip brought 10 USF and Stanford University law students to Watsonville to staff a mortgage and foreclosure clinic. Students provided advice to homeowners under the supervision of foreclosure and bankruptcy attorneys. The clinic was part of an all-day event organized by the city of Watsonville, the Watsonville Law Center, and other nonprofit and government agencies for homeowners in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties affected by the foreclosure crisis.