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Home / Expert Opinion / MCBA President’s Message: Lawyers for Learning makes an impact for students

MCBA President’s Message: Lawyers for Learning makes an impact for students

Carolyn Nussbaum

Carolyn Nussbaum

One of the signature programs of the Monroe County Bar Association is Lawyers for Learning. For 25 years, the MCBA has had a robust partnership supporting Adlai E. Stevenson School 29. That support has taken a number of forms, from financial support in the form of grants to teachers and the school for unique programs and outings, to lawyers’ presence in the school, as one-on-one mentors and extra hands in classrooms. Last week, more than 20 teachers and administrators from the school joined the Lawyers for Learning volunteers and MCBA staff for a happy hour. The teachers were effusive in their appreciation and thanks to the volunteers and MCBA staff who have supported School 29.

The program is flexible to accommodate the often-inflexible schedules and commitments of the lawyer-volunteers. The school is a five-minute drive from downtown, and some mentors look forward to their regular meetings with students at breakfast or lunch. Others visit a classroom on a regular or even not-so-regular basis, to read to small groups or to assist with special projects, or even team up to volunteer when available. I heard story after story about the impact that MCBA volunteers and support have had on their students. Teachers at the happy hour explained that an extra pair of hands for just an hour can make a real difference in the classroom.

Lawyers for Learning is not just about mentors and classroom support — each year, the program sponsors a fundraiser; proceeds go directly to fund special activities at School 29. Just a few weeks ago, Lawyers for Learning provided funds for a field trip to the Nazareth College Arts Center for special education students who attended a sensory-friendly performance. The experience had a huge impact on students, affording them a unique experience to engage and connect. This winter, Lawyers for Learning will sponsor trips for additional classes from School 29 to attend children’s theater performances at Nazareth.

It’s not just about field trips and theater. Lawyers for Learning provides Scholastic books to every student. To support the school in its team-building initiative, Lawyers for Learning donates shirts to the entire school. On designated days, students and teachers wear their matching school shirts with pride, demonstrating their unity and school spirit. If you go to School 29, a visit will include a walk through the school garden, accessible to all students, constructed with support from Lawyers for Learning.

Lawyers for Learning funds a youth yoga instructor and we heard from teachers that the students are proud of mastering breathing and stretching techniques. This year, the program is funding music therapy for several special education classrooms. Volunteers and teachers who have been in these classrooms spoke eloquently about the extraordinary impact the music has on students, getting them up to dance, sing and play along. Without outside funding from the MCBA, these students would not have the opportunity to benefit from this therapy.

None of this would happen without the generosity of donors and volunteers. Many thanks to Thomas & Solomon, which has sponsored the golf tournament for many years, and to program leadership Amanda Dwyer, Iskra Bonanno, Alison Moyer, Danielle Wild, and Brad Kammholz, as well as the many other volunteers and donors who have supported the program, providing their time and creative thoughts. Stay tuned for more information about this year’s fundraiser, coming this winter. If you have an hour every week (you have to eat lunch sometime), or even just once every month, you can make a difference in a student’s life. Call Kathy Fico at the MCBA for more information.

Speaking of flexibility and demands on lawyer time, MCBA is bringing CLE to its members, where they are. In three easy clicks, participants can download the Zoom application and watch the program (both the speakers and the presentation) on their phones, iPads, laptops or desktop, and even ask questions of the speakers. Whether you are in Pittsford or Florida, MCBA members can earn CLE credits at a discounted price, and learn from unique programs tailored to New York practice, including the perspectives of our local state and federal judiciary.

Look at the CLE listings (at mcba.org or in the weekly eDocket) to see which programs are now available for remote participation. You can try this feature out next Friday, Nov. 15, when the MCBA will be presenting a timely program on the new “Red Flag Law” and New York rules on firearms. Family lawyers, school lawyers, and criminal defense attorneys need to know about these changes in the law and can learn from a panel of experts. If you can’t make it downtown, register for online attendance and you will be sent a link to join the program remotely. If you have questions about accessing the Zoom CLE platform, please contact Danielle Matijas at the MCBA.

MCBA continues to find new and different ways to fulfill its mission to provide public education about legal topics. By the time you read this, we will have elected County Court, Supreme Court and City Court Judges. We are often asked by our friends, families and neighbors which judicial candidate they should vote for. I hope you were able to tune in to WXXI last week for conversations with the candidates for County Court and Supreme Court, organized by the MCBA Judiciary Committee. The candidates had an opportunity to discuss their personal qualifications, and to respond to thoughtful questions from moderator Evan Dawson about important and relevant topics such as justice, implicit bias, and specialized courts. Perhaps the most fascinating question asked was about political party affiliation and judicial qualifications. I was impressed with the level of discourse and the articulate presentations by each of the candidates. If you have ideas for other ways in which MCBA might educate the public about legal issues, please reach out and contact Kevin Ryan or me.

Carolyn G. Nussbaum is president of the Monroe County Bar Association and is a partner and litigator at Nixon Peabody LLP. She can be reached at cnussbaum@nixonpeabody.com.

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