Four Stetson College of Law students spend summer giving back
Some students use their summers to lie on the beach and work on their tans, but at Stetson Law, students explore their passions during those intermittent months and relish in the opportunity to give back to their communities.
This summer, four outstanding Stetson students are participating in the Legal Aid Summer Fellowship Program sponsored by the Florida Bar Foundation: Hanna Elmasry, Mavic Francisco, Kelly Hawk and Amika Jeffries. All four students began their 11-week fellowships in May and will continue to work in communities across Florida throughout the summer.
“In America, where we are such an empowered country, it can be easy to neglect the power of telling someone that they can do more,” said Elmasry. “A lot of low-income children are never told that and even a little bit of support can change everything.”
Mavic Francisco is exploring her passion for health care and disability law with the Legal Aid of Manasota, a medical and legal partnership with Sarasota Memorial Hospital. At the fellowship, she will split her time between discussing health care issues at the hospital and working with staff attorneys in the Legal Aid field offices.
Francisco has just completed her 2L year at Stetson, where she is treasurer of the Health Care Law Society and she works as a research assistant under Professor Stacey-Rae Simcox. After graduation, she hopes to continue working in the health and disability law fields and help enact change toward health equity for people from all walks of life.
“Social needs are just as important as medical needs,” Francisco said. “One medical condition can be devastating to a family; it can change a family’s whole financial condition if a loved one is sick and having public benefits is important to keep that family afloat.”
Kelly Hawk, a rising 3L at Stetson, is at Disability Independence Group, Inc., in Miami, Florida, working on the Juvenile Justice Collaborative, a coordinated community response to protect and advance the rights of at-risk students and those with disabilities by preventing school disciplinary policies from forcing children out of the classroom. Hawk will also be working on the Enable Project to promote access for individuals with disabilities to civic engagement, developing training to ensure that the voices of individuals with disabilities are heard and effectively represented in the policy-making decisions which impact their lives.
“Everybody cares about kids,” Hawk said. “But sometimes there is a misunderstanding between what the school provides and what the child needs.”
Prior to coming to law school, Hawk received a master’s degree in Professional School Counseling from Carson-Newman University in Tennessee. Hawk originally wanted to specialize in special education law, but she says Stetson opened her eyes and helped her fall in love with higher education law and law as a whole.
After graduation, Hawk hopes to help bridge that disconnect through pro-bono work with families of exceptional student education (ESE) children.
Amika Jeffries was chosen to work with Florida Legal Services in Newberry, Florida, which provides legal aid to low-income families in the community. Jeffries will be learning about various kinds of law as the program often tackles economic, social justice and discrimination cases. Jeffries just completed her 2L year at Stetson, where she advocates for social justice by working pro-bono with legal aid clinics and community events and serving on the executive board of the national reproductive justice organization If/When/How.
Jeffries graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University with a bachelor’s in health science – pre physical therapy and a minor in psychology, with the intention of becoming a doctor in physical therapy, but her passions for social activism and advocacy led her to law school.
She was initially attracted to Florida Legal Services because of the Florida Institutional Legal Services program, which provides civil legal aid to those in Florida state prisons, county jails and mental health facilities.
“I wanted my last summer to be used not only getting experience, but also fulfilling my purpose as a human being to serve others,” Jeffries said. “This fellowship allows me to do both.”
-By Rachel Wise
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