Faculty and Students Engage in Community Outreach Initiative
Mae Quinn, professor of law and director of the Juvenile Law & Justice Clinic (JLJC); Beth Martin, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic's (IEC) engineering and science director; students from the law school's International Law Society (ILS); other law students; and clinical staff recently participated in "Creating a Beloved Community," an event fostering community and civic engagement while marking the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
Second-year law students and ILS members Daniel Rathauser, Alisa Uzoaru, and Danelle Gagliardi used the event as a way to demonstrate support for the St. Louis community, while furthering the law school's pro bono pledge.
"This event encouraged ILS members to think more about how we can support the St. Louis community by encouraging broader attendance at our programs, as well as through initiatives that we develop and support," Rathauser says.
Sponsored by the United Way, Washington University's Gephardt Institute, Saint Louis University, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the program brought together community leaders, social services groups, legal services providers, students, and others to talk about the ways in which they might continue to live up to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Our goal," King famously urged, "is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls, as well as a quantitative change in our lives."
The event took place in Saint Louis University’s Center for Global Citizenship, where Dr. King delivered a speech in 1964. The program also served as a launch for the 2013 Missouri Civic Health Index and a celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the City of St. Louis.
Martin helped foster productive conversation among participants. She reminded attendees of the importance of connecting with neighbors and neighborhoods, as a first step toward meaningful community engagement and improvement. "Once such groundwork is established, we can work together toward larger reforms," she said.
Quinn participated in a multi-agency "slam" in which service providers were given 30 seconds to pitch their community-focused programs. The JLJC also hosted a resource table to distribute clinical students' legal resources pamphlets and information about the clinic's free legal services for youth.
Quinn was impressed by the turnout and pleased to connect with other groups and individuals serving St. Louis area youth. "It is important for us as a law school community to not only talk the talk, but also to walk the walk," she says. "We need to regularly get outside of Washington University's walls, establish sustainable connections, and actively serve as agents of change."
For Rathauser, "Creating a Beloved Community" provided a number of future partnership opportunities, including some that could be acted upon immediately. "For example, one effective volunteer effort involves establishing mentee/mentor relationships with St. Louis youth," he says. "ILS will be encouraging more members of the law school community to join organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri to reach this goal."