Students Celebrated for Pro Bono Work and Community Service
More than 100 UF Law students were honored at this year’s Pro Bono and Community Service Brunch for their dedication in serving others.
The event was held to applaud the efforts of students who went above and beyond what is expected of the typical law student. The students honored dedicated at least 35 hours in their respective programs.
“I think it’s not only an outstanding opportunity to provide to under-served populations, it’s a testimony to the responsibility and dedication of our students,” said Assistant Dean for Career Services Linda Calvert Hanson.
The two programs, Pro Bono and Community Service, serve similar purposes of helping others but use different avenues. The Pro Bono Project allows students the opportunity to serve those in need with legal volunteer work, and an attorney usually supervises these students. In contrast, the Community Service Project allows students to be recognized for volunteer work benefiting the community at large.
As an advocate for pro bono causes, Dean Robert Jerry commended the honorees. “The community service you have done illustrates and manifests what we stress here. As someone who gives back to the community this will be important to what you do once you leave the law school,” he said.
Among the students honored, career services also acknowledged two exceptional students as Students of the Year.
Third-year law student Andrew Comiter is one of the two students who received the Student of the Year Award. The “Double-Gator” combined his passions of baseball and helping others in the Gainesville community to earn the honor.
As a young boy growing up playing baseball he was always being coached, but while he was an accounting student at UF he had the chance to see the “flip side of things” on the baseball field by volunteering to coach with the Gainesville Babe Ruth Baseball League camps before graduating in spring 2003.
When he returned to Gainesville in 2006 to attend law school, Comiter continued his involvement with the organization. He spent four to five months and 64 hours as head coach of a baseball team for 13- to 15-year-old students. “It was time consuming but overall a lot of fun,” Comiter said.
Although he said he enjoys law school and his other involvements, including serving as president of Florida Blue Key, the change of pace from a typical day at school was a blessing. In comparison to his classes the baseball field was “fun-natured competitiveness,” he said.
Comiter viewed the prestigious award as a true honor but was more thrilled to see the difference he made in the lives of the young boys he coached. “It’s very exciting and nice. I’m just glad that it did make a difference and other people recognize it.” After graduation this May, Comiter said he plans to join the UF Law graduate tax program and focus on becoming an attorney.
The other Student of the Year award recipient was Jessica Lillesand. The Miami, Fla., native extended her study abroad experience in order to work as a legal intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
While studying abroad in Holland and taking classes at Leiden University in spring 2007 through UF Law’s study abroad program, she became very interested in public international law. She then applied to work for the Tribunal during the summer but enjoyed the internship so much that she decided to extend her stay through the fall.
While at the Tribunal, she worked for the defense counsel for two different defendants indicted on several charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, she said. The third-year law student performed tasks from general legal research on procedural issues to preparing the case for trial.
Lillesand said she is honored to receive the award for Student of the Year but is more delighted to see attention devoted to pro bono causes. “I think it is important for all law students to experience doing some kind of pro bono, and I hope that soon a pro bono requirement will be implemented for all students as a prerequisite to being admitted to the Bar,” she said.
Although her father is an attorney, he wasn’t the only catalyst that drove her to pursue law career. “My desire to pursue a career in law came from a hope that I could help others and influence their lives in a positive manner. I think it is important to cultivate this desire early in a law student’s career, so that we can produce a more civic-minded group of practicing attorneys,” she said. “I hope I get the chance to do a lot more pro bono work wherever I end up practicing.”
While interning, Lillesand logged nearly 500 hours of pro bono work from June through November and sometimes worked 14 or 16 hours a day, especially during the trials.
After graduation this May, Lillesand said she plans to work a few years with her father’s firm in Miami and then purse a master’s degree in international relations, political science or international economics. “I’d like to eventually do some kind of policy work, effecting change at the big picture level,” she said.
Other students honored at the brunch include, Kelley Abramowich, Patricia Alten, John Austin, Emily Banks, Meredith Barrios, Matthew Belisle, Marshall Bender, Robert Braxtoon, Geoff Brougher, Timothy Buskirk, Kristin Carpenter, Nakku Chung, Seth Claytor, Kristine Coffin, Adam Cohen, Beverly Collins, Andrew Comiter, Katie Coxe, Natalie Davy, Christopher Deem, Lisa Ellison-Cherney, Sean Estes, Rebeca Feldman, Alexander Fischer, Stewart Gold, Lisa Goldberg, Megone Gordon, Jonathan Grayson, Nicole Griffin, Natalie Guerra, Jason Hall, Blake Harris, Michael Hersh, Melissa Hochmouth, Andrew Hoffman, William Holcombe, Courtney Hollen, Michael Hooi, Serena Hu, Margaret Hunt, Robert Hyte, Erica Jaffe, Christopher Jahr, Jennifer Jones, Witold Jurewicz, Christie Kelley, Scott Kennelly, Genie Key, Tariq Khan, Brent Kimball, Melanie King, Kim Koleos, Kay Lennon, Bradley Lerman, Trami LeTran, Jillian Levy, William Lewis, Brett Lieberman, Jessica Lillesand, Tracy Lizza, Michael Luongo, Sean Malvin, Christine Manning, Nessa Manten, Giannina Marin, Lauren Marks, Andrew Mayo, Bernard McManus, Kristin Mentzer, Andrew Miller, Jazil Mohammad, Jennifer Morando, Theresa Murphy, Christina Paradowski, Crystal Patterson, Christopher Pavilonis, Kristen Rassmusen, Matthew Rector, Jee Min Rhee, Lauren Riggio, Andie Ross, Stacey Schwimmer, Dena Setzer, Johann Smith, Lyndie Smith, Emily Snider, Regina St. Cyr, Jason Stark, Erin Swick, David Torre, Dana Trachtenberg, Tania Varela, Stephen Villeneuve, Steven Walter, Christian Waugh, Ryan Weeks, Jorja Williams, Erin Wolfson, Mindy Yergin, and Cynthia Zurawsky.