On Friday, June 7, Thomas Jefferson School of Law was honored by the Legal Aid Society of San Diego (LASSD) during the organization’s annual Pro Bono Program Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon.
Angie Valdiconza, Externship & Pro Bono Programs Coordinator, accepted the award on behalf of TJSL. “Legal Aid Society of San Diego presented TJSL’s Pro Bono Program with an Outstanding Service Award for the past year,” said Valdiconza. “Many TJSL students and alums have volunteered their services to the clinics at Legal Aid Society. Those clinics include Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic Program, Restraining Order Clinics, Unlawful Detainer Clinic, Youth & Children at Risk, Homeless Advocacy Project and Conservatorship.”
In addition to the award presented to Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a number of TJSL law students and graduates received the prestigious Wiley W. Manuel Award, named after the first African American Justice on the Supreme Court. JSL students and alums recognized included Jacob Bloch, Gina Cucuzella, Melodie Dan, Julie Houth, Debbie Micev, Steven Noakes, Meghan Powell, Ariadna Ramirez, Elenasina Smolinksi, Kale Sopoaga, Javier Vargas and Tanya Sanscartier. Alumni included Adam Brewer ‘09, Loren Herrera ‘12, Jason Kaplan ’11, Daniel Laguna ’10, Roman Partida ‘13 and Caitlin Steele ‘11.
“I am honored to receive the Wiley W. Manuel Certificate for Pro Bono Legal Services from the Legal Aid Society of San Diego,” said Kale Sopoaga (3L). “I am also extremely grateful to Legal Aid for recognizing my efforts to provide support and assistance to individuals who need it the most by giving me the Outstanding Service Award. I have worked hard for the past year to learn how to effectively help clients during difficult times. It has been a rewarding experience, and I plan to continue providing aid to underrepresented communities for the rest of my legal career.”
"Working for Legal Aid's Pro Bono Program has been one of the most rewarding experiences,” said Meghan Powell (3L). “I feel extremely honored to receive an award for the public interest work that I cherish so much."
This year, the luncheon was held at the Westin Hotel in downtown San Diego and was attended by more than 130 people. The luncheon brought the local San Diego pro bono community together to recognize the indefatigable efforts of the many volunteers and organizations committed to the LASSD outreach and pro bono programs over the past year.
“I volunteer at the Legal Aid Clinic in Southbay helping individuals file civil and domestic restraining orders,” said Tanya Sanscartier (2L). “I just finished my first year of law school and working at the clinic made me realize exactly why I'm in law school. It turned law school into something more than just reading and studying to do well on exams and allowed me to see the great impact we can make on people's lives. My work with the legal aid clinic has been extremely rewarding and opened my eyes to see how volunteering a couple of hours a week can really make a difference. We take for granted that many people do not know how to navigate the legal system, even if it is just to fill out paperwork to file a restraining order. What may seem like a little task to a person in law school or an attorney really are difficult tasks for other individuals because many do not know where to start. Individuals leave the clinic so grateful and it is such a rewarding feeling. I will definitely continue to volunteer with legal aid for the remainder of law school.”
“I love working with Legal Aid Society,” said Deborah Micev (3L). ”It’s such a great combination of making friends with colleagues, learning to practice law and helping people with legal problems. The luncheon was fantastic and I feel so honored to be around so many people who really care about people and the law.
Gregory E. Knoll, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of LASSD, opened the luncheon by giving thanks to the attendees for “helping to bridge the ever widening gap to access to justice”. This year, volunteers donated more than 20,000 hours to the pro bono programs worth an estimated value of $3,000,000.
This summer, TJSL students Jacob Bloch, Michelle Evenson, Olga Gonzalez, Diana Malkin and Michelle Mance will volunteer with Legal Aid Society of San Diego.