Upon graduating from law school, I had the pleasure of working as an AmeriCorps Fellow in the Employment Opportunity Legal Corps program in Watsonville, California. I valued the experience working within a farming community, advocating to remove legal barriers to employment, including assisting with record clearance remedies, enforcing consumer protections that mandate fair criminal reporting in background checks, and improving access to driver’s licenses and occupational licenses. But, when my fellowship was complete, I wanted to return to the Los Angeles area where I grew up.
That change led me to a wonderful new opportunity as the Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Veterans Legal Corps Fellow working at MHAS’s veteran re-entry project in the greater Long Beach area, BeHeLP-UP. The project was just starting its second year. The fellow who began the project had laid a strong foundation of community partnerships with U.S. Vets and Volunteers of America. Knowing how many veterans need legal assistance, though, I pondered how to expand the reach of this new veterans’ project.
I’m happy to say that my efforts are paying off and we are expanding our network of partners. On Valentine’s Day, I launched a new twice-monthly clinic at the Veterans Services Office at Long Beach City College. Through the collaboration of the staff, I can meet striving veteran students in the community where they gather, thereby maximizing the likelihood that those in need of legal services will receive it.
The veteran students I meet at LBCC face many of the same challenges as veteran clients served by BeHeLP-UP in the past. Issues range from fair housing and reasonable accommodations to consumer and medical debt. I look forward to finding solutions that will enable these hard-working young men and women to attain their goals.