Stetson Law students assist with “Raising the Bar”

Story by Valeria Obi

Stetson University College of Law students volunteered time in February at “Raising the Bar,” a community service event organized by law students, lawyers and members of the legal profession. The Stetson Law students helped feed residents of the Pinellas Safe Harbor homeless shelter in Clearwater on Feb. 11.

Members of the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division and Students Division, Moot Court Board, American Bar Association Law Student Division, and Black Law Students Association at Stetson co-sponsored the project in Clearwater. Law schools across the state of Florida participate annually in “Raising the Bar.”

This year, the goal of the Stetson student volunteers was to help the residents of Pinellas Safe Harbor, a shelter for the chronically homeless and those in need of services. The Safe Harbor serves as a transitional center, providing services for homeless people who are or were in the criminal justice system, and assists them in reentering society.

“It was both a humbling and eye opening experience to see the sheer number of people in our community who were living at the shelter,” said student Katelyn Mae Desrosiers, one of the event organizers and a member of Stetson’s Moot Court Board. “We are all so wrapped up in our own lives and so blind to the fact that there are so many living among us who are in need of just the basic necessities. I feel blessed to be a part of the Stetson community because of its willingness to appreciate what it has and give back to those less fortunate.”

More than 20 volunteers assisted in making sandwiches at Stetson’s Gulfport campus and then transported them to Safe Harbor. The Stetson Law students delivered and handed out approximately 350 bagged lunches to the residents at the shelter.

“It was really amazing to see the overwhelming amount of thanks that both the shelter personnel and residents showed us for the simple act of providing lunch,” said Frank Leung, representative of the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division. “Many of them appreciated the fact that law students and lawyers took the time and energy to not only prepare the lunches, but to personally hand them to each and every resident.”

Frederick Longmire, chief of Stetson’s Moot Court Board, said he was humbled by the experience. “Pro bono gives me the opportunity to not forget where I came from and an opportunity to help those who are less fortunate,” said Longmire. “But for God’s grace, that could have been me receiving that sandwich instead of giving it.”

Next year, the same organizations will collaborate with other student organizations to continue to grow the Raising the Bar event.

Stetson Law students contributed 19,000 hours to pro bono service in 2009-2010, and Stetson Law is the first law school in the state to require pro bono service of its students and faculty.