Notre Dame Law School Names Two 2016 Bank of America Foundation Community Sustainability Fellows

Author: Denise Wager

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Notre Dame Law School and the Bank of America Foundation have named Christina Jones and Nicholas Bedenk this year’s Bank of America Foundation Community Sustainability Fellows. The Bank of America Foundation Community Sustainability Fellowship places NDLS graduates in agencies or private nonprofits for a two-year term.

The third-year law students each developed a public service plan to address a community sustainability problem that supported the Bank of America Foundation’s funding mission of community development, education and workforce development and critical needs.

Jones, who graduated in 2013 from the University of California, Berkeley, will work with the Arc of the United States in Washington, D.C., launching a new project through the Arc’s Center for Special Education Advocacy to enforce their client’s rights to assistance with transitioning from school to employment. Arc’s mission addresses human and civil rights, treatment, and services and programs for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. One of the priorities of the Bank of America Foundation is supporting projects that connect people with disabilities with the skills and employers to help them successfully move into the workforce.

“The Arc has a long history of leading the way in developing innovative workforce solutions for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supporting the recruitment, on-boarding, and retention process,” Jones wrote in her application proposal. “I am eager to use my project to build on this foundation and work to connect organizations with people and services that increase the diversity, productivity, and quality of their overall workforce.”

Bedenk, who graduated in 2013 from DePaul University, will represent clients – mainly young men – entering the criminal justice system in the critical window between their arrest and their initial court hearing. He will work for the First Defense Legal Aid in Chicago and will engage in community education and dialogue for youth about their rights and responsibilities when in contact with police to reduce the risk of arrest (or worse). His program will address a broader effort to reduce mass incarceration by keeping young people out of the criminal justice and prison system.

“Notre Dame’s mission is to educate a different type of lawyer,” Bedenk wrote in his application proposal. “I understand that to mean being a lawyer who is involved in the community through education and provision of services that may be lacking within that community. FDLA’s youth education component helps to stop the cycle of poverty, violence and incarceration that is prevalent in Chicago’s most vulnerable communities. Through education I will be helping to create civically engaged citizens who contribute to the well-being of their community and [are] less likely to develop criminal records.”

“I am so proud of Nick and Christina and cannot wait to see their public interest careers thrive as they begin them with the Bank of America Foundation Fellowship. Both Nick and Christina have been committed to public interest throughout their law school careers, and it is extremely satisfying to witness the realization of all of their hard work,” Katelynn McBride, program director for Public Interest & Chicago Initiatives said.

NDLS’s inaugural Bank of America Foundation Community Sustainability fellows and their projects were:
• Jason Sethen, ’15 J.D., works for the Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund.
• Rachel Winkler, ’15 J.D., works for the International Institute of the Bay Area in San Francisco.