Public Interest Projects

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Animal Rights

HOPE works in collaboration with the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapter at Miami Law to further the interests of animals through the legal system. HOPE provides a forum for education, advocacy and scholarship, and administers an Animal Law Fellowship, sponsored by the Arnold and Barbara Grevior Animal Advocacy Endowment Fund, to advance the growing field of animal law. In addition, the Law School offers a course in Animal Law and hosts an annual Animal Law Symposium to further increase awareness and advocacy opportunities.

HOPE and SALDF volunteers also dedicate time to the Humane Society of Greater Miami. Activities include dog and cat socialization and grooming and dog walking. In addition, volunteers educate community members on population control, providing resources for local care.

Domestic Violence

HOPE seeks to raise awareness about domestic violence, foster student advocacy on behalf of domestic violence survivors and create initiatives to meet the needs of survivors. To do this, Miami Law students work with community agencies to raise awareness about domestic violence issues in the Miami Law community; foster student advocacy on behalf of domestic violence survivors; and create initiatives to prevent the cycle of violence and meet the needs of survivors.

Students collaborate with several legal services agencies and community centers dedicated to serving the needs of indigent and low income women and their families, as well as victims of abuse, neglect, violence and discrimination, including the Legal Aid Society, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Kristi House, Haitian Women of Miami and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Education Youth Literacy

For students interested in working in improving education and/or youth literacy, HOPE offers a myriad of programs. These include:

After-School Reading Program: The Volunteer Reading Program is an opportunity for Miami Law students to help children with their reading and language arts skills. This program is a flexible volunteer opportunity that allows students to leave campus and make a difference in a young person's life. Moreover, it is a very rewarding experience for both the kids and the tutors.

Books & Buddies: This program targets children who attend local elementary schools in order to promote reading, writing and education. Each semester, Books & Buddies pairs law students with a local student to share and communicate the excitement of reading through the exchange of letters. Correspondence is traded weekly between the Buddies and provides an opportunity for each to learn about their reading pen pal. This program makes an immense different in the education of these students. At the end of each semester the elementary school children are invited to visit the University of Miami School of Law to meet their law school buddy. The event gives law students the opportunity to speak to their buddies and encourage them to focus on their educational goals.

'Canes Carnival: Each semester, student organizations join forces with HOPE to offer an afternoon of fun to children from after-school programs and shelters. The Law School Courtyard turns from a main thoroughfare to a midway of games, arts and crafts, music, food and fun. Sebastian, the University of Miami mascot, and more than 50 volunteers welcome the children to their carefree visit to Miami Law.

Community Partnership for the Homeless: Since 1995, Community Partnership for the Homeless has been assisting homeless men, women and children in transitioning off the streets of Miami-Dade County and on their way to attaining greater stability and self-sufficiency in their lives. HOPE volunteers spend a morning or afternoon with homeless children at one of the two Miami-Dade County locations. Activities throughout the year include a day of play with the children, helping to prepare a meal, arts and crafts, as well as special events such as a big Halloween Party, holiday gift time and more.

First Book: First Book is a national nonprofit organization with a single mission: to provide low-income children with their first new books. Comprised of volunteers from all sectors of the campus community, First Book at Miami Law works to promote and facilitate the distribution of new books to literacy programs in the Miami metropolitan area. We strive to provide books to children in literacy programs, shelters for battered children, housing project initiatives, soup kitchens, after-school programs and other community-based efforts reaching children living at or below the poverty line. Nationally, since its inception in 1992, First Book has distributed more than 45 million new books to children in need in hundreds of communities.

"It's Your Life" - Financial Literacy Project: Each year in Miami, about 300 teens age out of the foster care system upon turning 18 and become in charge of their personal finances. These teens, however, have never received any education concerning issues such as opening a checking account or saving to accomplish long term goals. They often fall victim to predatory lending and develop substantial debt, which creates a large barrier between themselves and success. The Financial Literacy program was established to provide these teens with the tools and information they need to manage the financial responsibilities of adulthood. The curriculum is organized in a very user-friendly format and a training session prepares students to teach financial literacy. The program consists of five classes, with each class ranging from two to three hours. The classes are taught at various schools and community centers throughout Miami-Dade County. The program concludes with a trip to a local Florida bank where the teens open a checking and savings account.

Legal Up!: A project of the Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership, Legal Up! focuses on improving literacy, understanding rights and parent skill-building for young parents, immigrants, young people emerging from foster care and others who could use help in improving their own lives and those of their children. The project aims to help those attending to: recognize, prevent, and/or resolve legal challenges hopefully without a lawyer, more often through community resources, and if need be, with a lawyer; understand their legal rights and responsibilities; and appreciate the role that law and lawyers contribute to a just and fair community and country. Student Fellows assist judges and lawyers in conducting interactive sessions on the following topics: The Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, Finance, Immigration, Landlord Tenant Law, and Law in the Workplace.

School Success: HOPE volunteers collaborate with Miami Law Student Organizations and the community to assure that students have the appropriate supplies for learning at Miami-Dade County Schools.

Homeless Assistance

HOPE students work with Community Partnerships for Homeless, Camillus House, Legal Services of Greater Miami and other local agencies to research the legal issues affecting South Florida's homeless population. Miami Law students work to meet individual basic needs, connect homeless individuals and families with needed social services and advocate for specific legal needs.

Camillus House: Serving the South Florida community since 1960, Camillus House is a non-profit organization that provides humanitarian services to poor and homeless men, women and children. Camillus offers a full continuum of services that includes food, shelter, housing, rehabilitative treatment, and health care. Through HOPE, volunteers work in the soup kitchen, preparing and serving meals to individuals and families in need.

Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is an international non-profit organization that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world. HOPE volunteers spend a day in partnership with Habitat for Humanity building homes and communities for low-income families within the Greater Miami area. Projects include framing houses, installing drywall, laying roof shingles, painting, etc.

Juvenile Justice

The Juvenile Justice Project (JJP) was implemented to serve the needs of offenders in the juvenile justice system as well as to provide law students with the opportunity to gain valuable experience while sharing their knowledge of the legal system as mentors and tutors. The JJP connects Miami Law students with various community and governmental agencies to effectuate policy changes and improve the delivery of services to children in our delinquency system. Efforts include direct representation, research and writing, policy reform and mentoring.

Some of the challenges plaguing our juvenile justice system include: young children being arrested and held in detention centers, children with no access to appropriate educational services, children in need of intervention and alternative sanctioning systems. However, appropriate programs and placements are few and far between. Through partnership with various youth projects, our students are able to make meaningful connections with children and bridge some of the gaps of the system.

Pro Bono Legal Research

Re-Entry and Restoration of Rights

The Re-Entry Project allows HOPE volunteers to team with local agencies serving adults—including the ACLU, the Office of the Public Defender and the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department—to provide assistance to individuals re-entering society, post-incarceration. Initiatives include restoration of rights, voter registration, job readiness assessment and training, and mock career fairs. In addition, students work with various community agencies focused on juvenile re-entry to provide mentoring and support to incarcerated juveniles.

Translation Assistance

HOPE teams students with various community agencies in need of translation assistance. Individuals with second language skills are highly encouraged to register with the HOPE Office and indicate availability and field of interest through the volunteer interest form. Students have the opportunity to assist in various areas of practice and are afforded a meaningful opportunity to play a key role in the promotion of access to justice. Register Here.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

As one of the poorest urban centers, Miami is much in need of direct services that providing e-filing and rapid tax refunds, allowing clients expeditious access to funds without charging fees for the service. That's where Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) comes in. VITA is a nationwide program that provides free tax assistance to low-income, elderly and disabled individuals who need help with basic income tax return preparation and electronic filing. All VITA volunteers receive training from the IRS, and operate a site in conjunction with the IRS during tax season. To ensure that all of Miami-Dade County's diverse residents may access the services, tax preparation assistance is offered in English, Spanish and Creole.

Voter Initiative

As one of the poorest urban centers, Miami is much in need of direct services that providing e-filing and rapid tax refunds, allowing clients expeditious access to funds without charging fees for the service. That's where Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) comes in. VITA is a nationwide program that provides free tax assistance to low-income, elderly and disabled individuals who need help with basic income tax return preparation and electronic filing. All VITA volunteers receive training from the IRS, and operate a site in conjunction with the IRS during tax season. To ensure that all of Miami-Dade County's diverse residents may access the services, tax preparation assistance is offered in English, Spanish and Creole.

STUDENT TESTIMONIALS
Sophie Brion

On the Domestic Violence Project: "Domestic violence, which impacts every part of our community, is on the rise and can pose significant challenges for women's economic security, particularly during the current economic crisis. Survivors of violence may need legal support for a variety of issues including housing, divorce, employment, child support, and even obtaining injunctions to maintain their safety and well being." - Sophie Brion, J.D., J.D. 2012


Andrea Martinez, Class of 2015, talks about tutoring inner-city students through Empowered Youth.

Courtney Tie

On the Homeless Assistance Project: "I believe that homeless children should be taught that they are important to society and that they deserve all the same rights and resources as other children. So many people choose to look down on these children and assume that they are not worthy of their attention." - Courtney Tie, J.D. 2011


Logan Haine Roberts, Class of 2014, talks about the impact of HOPE on his law school experience as well as his experience volunteering at Chapman Partnership for the homeless.

Shannon A. Greco

On the Re-Entry and Restoration of Rights Project: "Once a single individual realizes her rights, the knowledge can spread and contribute to the abolition of human rights abuses throughout a village, town, city, country, continent, and hopefully, the elimination of all abuse will occur throughout the world." – Shannon A. Greco, J.D. 2010


Mindy Reinstein

On the Translation Assistance Project: "The great thing about HOPE is that students are being encouraged from Day 1 of law school to make a difference in our community using the legal profession as a foundation." – Mindy Reinstein, J.D. 2008


Jake Mueller

On the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Project: "VITA is a great example of how we can make a huge difference in our community, providing tax assistance to people who would otherwise be taken advantage of by unscrupulous tax preparers." – Jake Mueller, J.D. 2009


Sarah Trent

"Volunteerism comes in all different forms. What does volunteerism have to do with voting initiatives? By connecting underserved populations and teaching them about their rights, you are creating a more educated and empowered citizenry." – Sarah Trent, J.D. 2009


2L Mike Kransler talks about his work with the homeless with Lawyers to the Rescue.