By Athena Aherrera, 2L
I still remember the first time I saw Admissions Director Jake Baska’s email regarding the orientation schedule and information on the service projects. My heart palpitated at the idea that law school was going to begin in just a month. Like many of my classmates, I was extremely excited but also extremely nervous to start this new chapter in my life.
I was, however, certainly more eager than scared for orientation week. Having been a member of the NDLS 2018 Facebook page, it was refreshing and comforting to see many posts by my classmates, upperclassmen, and alumni, who all seemed very friendly, sociable, and helpful. When it came to signing up for the service projects, I wanted to participate not only because community service was important to me, but also because I loved the idea that Notre Dame is a big proponent of educating their students to act in service to others apart from the professional and academic excellence it encourages.
At the same time, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to meet some members of my law school class. Even if participation was not mandatory, I thought it was a great idea to bring all the incoming 1Ls — those who participated in community service activities or not — together and help out on the various project sites and see first-hand why Notre Dame prides itself in “educating a different kind of lawyer.” I can tell you it was such a wonderful and fulfilling experience giving four hours of my day to the service project.
During my 1L service project, I had the opportunity to volunteer at St. Vincent DePaul, a Catholic charity. That project entailed sorting through donated clothes and basic necessities as well as organizing them by size and category for the institution’s thrift store. It was really uplifting to see that there were a ton of available clothes and useful things such as winter jackets, bed sheets, and cleaning supplies for babies that were being donated instead of just being thrown away.
At the same time, it dawned on me how fortunate I was to have the financial and basic material resources to attend graduate school — an expensive and huge financial expenditure in and of itself, and yet there are many individuals and families that have limited access to even the basic necessities and articles of clothing to get by every day. The idea that in a state that experiences winter weather that there are some individuals and families that potentially lack and cannot afford the appropriate clothing to protect themselves from the elements was eye-opening and slightly upsetting. It was really nice to know that our help would allow the beneficiaries to find the suitable clothing based on their sizes and needs. To me, realizing how just a fraction of our time could contribute to an orderly and organized sale of clothing and goods so that families and individuals could select and find the appropriate things they needed was very fulfilling.
Apart from that, it was an experience that I enjoyed because I was able to meet fellow students, some of whom have become my best friends in school today. Simply knowing the fact that the majority of my classmates participated in the service projects when it was not mandatory spoke volumes about the kind and quality of people that were in my class. It certainly was a great opportunity for me to go out of my comfort zone and meet new people, and more importantly, give back to and get to know the community at large.
My experience was something I will always remember and something I strongly recommend that 1Ls should participate in. As a rising 2L, I am truly proud to be a part of a law school community that has, at its core, the values of academic excellence and leadership which underpin a foundation of compassion and commitment to service for others.
The deadline to register for the service project during orientation was Aug. 10, however; if you missed the deadline and are still interested in participating, please email Peter Horvath, Student Services Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to see is space is still available.
Originally from the Philippines, Aherrera graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts in economics from The George Washington University before enrolling at Notre Dame Law School. Aherrera serves as a class representative to the Student Bar Association, a representative for Lexis Nexis and is a research assistant for Professor Veronica Root-Martinez. This summer, through The Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, she completed a summer associate position at Mayer Brown and worked as a law clerk for Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C.