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Public Interest Center Continues its Vital Mission-Driven Work

Students on Public Interest Center-sponsored service trip to New Orleans, LA
Thursday, May 5, 2016

Justice for all.

These words close a pledge made by millions of Americans each day. And they’re a pillar of our legal system. But, the same words evoke a promise that remains largely unfulfilled. In reality, a wide “justice gap” leaves many people in New York and across the country without the legal help they need when facing foreclosure, cuts in public assistance, eviction, and other serious legal challenges.

Leaders in the field have called on the legal profession and law schools to act as agents of change by devising initiatives aimed at making legal services and the courts more accessible. This call to action echoes the Vincentian mission that has animated St. John’s Law for 90 years.

It’s the mission behind the Law School’s Public Interest Center, which directs a range of programs and activities that promote lawyers’ professional obligation to serve those most in need. Among the center’s offerings are its:

  • Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)
  • Orientation Day of Service
  • National Celebration of Pro Bono
  • Pro Bono Service Opportunities
  • Pro Bono Training Workshops
  • Public Interest Lecture Series
  • Spring Break Service Trips

The center’s signature event is its annual Public Interest Auction. The St. John’s Law community comes out in force for this themed event and, through silent and live auctions and other festivities, raises significant funds to support the Law School’s Public Interest Summer Fellowship Program and other public service initiatives.

“The Public Interest Auction highlights the commitment of St. John’s Law alumni and others to our students and to our community,” says Assistant Dean for Students Alexis Martinez. “We receive donations from alumni, faculty, staff, and students to help make the night a success and, ultimately, to help our students pursue their passion for assisting those in need and serving the public good.”

With this collaborative effort, the Law School recently announced its 2016 Public Interest Center Summer Fellows, as well as the recipients of the New York Council of Defense Lawyers Sam Dawson Fellowship (Anjelica Mantikas ’18), the Catalyst Public Service Fellowship ( Jimmy Rodriguez ‘18), and the Silver Family Fellowship in Children’s Advocacy (William Forero ‘18). The 21 summer fellowships provide over $100,000 in summer employment funding to these deserving St. John’s Law students:

  • Christina Brennan ’18 (Manhattan Legal Services)
  • Yesenia Campiglia ’18 (The Door Legal Services Center)
  • Samantha Chasworth ’17 (Catholic Charities)
  • Leighanne Daly ’18 (Bronx DA)
  • Meaghan Dunigan ’17 (NY Attorney General)
  • Victoria Hill ’17 (Medicare Rights Group)
  • Taisha Lazare ’18 (Legal Aid Juvenile Rights)
  • Anjelica Mantikas ’18 (Texas Federal Public Defender)
  • Christina Mavrikis ’18 (Center for Family Representation)
  • J. Ray Mechmann III ’17 (Queens DA)
  • Maria Ortega-Lobos ’18 (Catholic Charities)
  • Matthew Powers ’17 (Queens DA)
  • Ashley Prinz ’17 (Brooklyn DA)
  • Diana Ricaurte ’18 (Human Rights First)
  • Janel Rottkamp ’18 (NY Attorney General)
  • Thomas Salmon ’17 (U.S. Attorney EDNY)
  • Gabrielle Schwartz ’18 (US Commodity Futures Trading)
  • Kristy Stainislawsczyk ’17 (Westchester DA)
  • Jenel Vales ’17 (Legal Aid Juvenile Rights)

The Public Interest Center gets strong support from its student-run executive board. Members work tirelessly to help organize the Public Interest Auction. They’re also the driving force behind the annual center-sponsored service trips. This year, the center was able to send students to two different service trip locations—New Orleans, LA and San Antonio, TX—where they worked with local public interest organizations Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and RAICES.

The 2016-2017 Public Interest Center Executive Board members are:

  • Leighanne Daly
 ’18 (Director of Speaker Series and Alumni Events)
  • Kyle Gens ’18 (Director of Public Relations)
  • Philip George ’18 (Director of Special Events)
  • Taisha Lazare
 ’18 (Director of Service Trips)
  • Anjelica Mantikas ’18 (Executive Director)
  • Gabrielle Schwartz
 ’18 (Director of Fundraising)
  • Jenel Vales
 ’17 (Director of Pro Bono and Service Projects)

“Our Public Interest Center embodies St. John’s Vincentian mission, which is rooted in compassion for the poor and zeal for service,” says Dean Michael A. Simons. “It allows our students to fulfill that mission while gaining valuable, hands-on experience in solving real world legal problems.”