On July 1, USC Gould School of Law students will head to their summer jobs and put in a full day’s work with no expectation of a paycheck.
Instead, their salaries will go to a good cause: the Public Interest Law Foundation’s Pledge-A-Day fund-raiser. The annual event asks first- and second-year students to pledge a day’s wages to benefit a public interest law student through the foundation. The funds will support summer grants, awarded annually to as many as 30 first- and second-year students who spend their summer working in government, nonprofit or other public interest organizations.
“This long-standing tradition at both USC Law and law schools across the country represents law students’ commitment to supporting fellow students who will dedicate their summer or career to provide desperately needed legal services to underserved populations,” said Corri Freedman ’10, vice president for development at the Public Interest Law Foundation. “For many law students, participating in Pledge-A-Day is one of the most significant ways they can contribute to public interest work at USC, aside from their own contributions of pro bono work.”
Second-year students are encouraged to donate the salary they earn on July 1. The suggested contribution is $500, while students working in a public interest position may want to pledge a smaller amount.
“The money raised from Pledge-A-Day goes directly to support students working this summer at such public interest organizations as Bet Tzedek, Public Counsel, the Refugee Consortium of Kenya, the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles and many others,” Freedman said.
Pledge-A-Day organizers also encourage participants to ask their employer to match their donations, and the foundation offers a form letter to help students make their request. Some firms and other employers have a policy of matching students’ contributions.
At an informational meeting about the program earlier this year, a handful of students who received summer grants last year spoke about their experiences and urged their classmates to contribute to the cause.
“It’s incredible how little money public interest needs to actually work so it’s pretty cool how someone can give just a little and it lets me go out and have a summer making a difference in people’s lives,” said Brendan Sapien ’10, who is working his second summer with the Hardcore Gang Unit of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Sapien works with crime victims and witnesses who fear retaliation from the suspects and other gang members if they testify in court.
Shannon Raj ’11, who will spend her second summer working with the Refugee Consortium of Kenya, described the dire need for legal aid for those escaping the ethnic conflicts in southern Sudan and Darfur.
“The legal clinic I work for has to cap at seeing 30 refugees a day because the lines every day are out of control,” Raj said.
Last year, the foundation raised more than $13,000 from donations from fellow law students, according to Freedman. Wages donated by graduates last year created the 2009 Class Grant, awarded to Ingrid Newquist ’10, who is working in the Appellate Law Project at Public Counsel.
“The enormity of the response was not surprising, given support for public interest work and pro bono work at USC Law,” she said.
For more information on Pledge-A-Day or to make a contribution, send an e-mail to Corri Freedman (email@example.com) or Aysha Pamukcu, incoming Public Interest Law Foundation vice president for development (firstname.lastname@example.org).