This year’s Public Service Day, hosted by Fordham Law’s Public Interest Resource Center, certainly looked and operated very differently from years past, as it was held virtually (with the exception of one in-person project). Nevertheless, 167 incoming students spent their Saturday working on 13 different projects with 16 upper-class student leaders. Despite the pandemic, this was the largest number of students to engage in the annual day of service, according to Assistant Dean for Public Interest and Social Justice Initiatives Leah Horowitz.
“Our student leaders always do a fantastic job with organizing, leading, and implementing interesting projects. However, the fact that more projects were formed shows that our student leaders, now more than ever, really stepped up,” Horowitz explained. “Public Service Day is one of the first opportunities to do something productive and bring incoming students into the mix of what Fordham Law students do and who they are.”
Madeline Halimi ’21 led the Housing Advocacy Project’s phone-banking event, partnering with the Metropolitan Council on Housing. She and about 15 students made 294 calls and spoke with 74 people who may have been financially impacted by the pandemic, are on rent strike, or are just having trouble paying their rent. Students provided individuals with information about the Cancel Rent Movement and an upcoming march with Met Council.
“I think the event provided a meaningful experience for new law students and demonstrated the power of grassroots advocacy,” Halimi said. “Phone-banking allowed the students to engage in public service despite being remote, as well as get to know their new classmates.”
Fordham Law’s Asian Pacific American Law Students Association organized the Close the Camps Project. Participants heard from leaders of Tsuru for Solidarity, a non-violent, direct action project that leverages the moral authority of Japanese American survivors of the World War II internment camps to advocate for an end to detention sites and a rejection of the inhuman immigration policies that target immigrant and refugee communities. They also learned more about immigrant detention centers and folded paper cranes that will be used at Tsuru for Solidarity’s actions.
The crane has long been an international symbol of peace after Sadako Sasaki folded one thousand paper cranes before her premature death from leukemia, which she got from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Tsuru for Solidarity, according to student leader Nicholas Loh ’22, will take Fordham Law’s cranes and bring them to upcoming protests at family detention centers. The project has already hung thousands of cranes on fences, signaling the broad support of people who are against detaining families seeking asylum.
“We had a good time together, and some 1Ls really felt that the human story aspect of immigration law came through in an impactful way for them,” Loh said.
The only project that was partially—and safely—held in-person was Operation Backpack, a community service initiative of Volunteers of America that works to ensure every child living in a New York City homeless or domestic violence shelter has a top-quality backpack filled with grade-specific supplies before the first day of school.
“This orientation program shows just how important public service is to Fordham Law students and provides the opportunity to engage, be engaged and hopefully stay engaged throughout their time at Fordham Law and beyond,” Horowitz said.