By Kevin Guzik, 1L
The legal aid alternative winter break trip in Santa Cruz was a great learning experience. We worked for two days at the Watsonville Law Center helping mainly low income individuals get former convictions off of their record. They came to us with the hopes of applying for better jobs, and demonstrating that they are on a new path to better themselves and their community. Our primary work revolved around record clearance, and we provided the clinic with intake, document drafting and research. It was really interesting working alongside supervising attorneys, and actually knowing that we are directly making a difference in these peoples lives. Not only did we do legal work, but we heard presentations from former convicts about how this type of legal work truly makes a difference, and they tried to impart on us a need for better social and community justice to keep people off of the streets and in schools. I truly enjoyed our work at the clinic, exploring Santa Cruz, and am excited for the next trip that LAAB has to offer.
By Will Brotherson, 1L
USC Law’s Legal Aid Alternative Breaks Project (LAAB) donated over 200 hours of time this Winter to help low-income members of a migrant, central-coast farming community expunge their burdensome criminal histories during LAAB’s Winter Alternative Break Trip. LAAB took 14 students in total to Watsonville, CA to volunteer with the Watsonville Law Center in a special 2-day long Record Clearance Clinic. Students went through an intensive orientation on the first day that served as their introduction to the many facets of the Watsonville Law Center, the distinct legal issues that challenge low-income migrant farm communities like Watsonville, and the relief the Center’s Record Clearance Project can provide to people struggling to overcome their criminal histories. The team got right to work after the orientation and begun preparing expungement packets for clients with multiple criminal convictions on their record. Students met with the clients whose files they had been working with the next day and gave them an overview of what the next steps in the process would be before having them read through and sign the paperwork.
As a former Watsonville Law Center intern, I was amazed to see the huge impact the group was able to have in such a short amount of time. Some of the clients the group helped had been on the waiting list since before I started my internship in March of 2013. While the Center is an impressive efficient non-profit legal machine, 200 free hours of work in a two-day period is an invaluable blessing for any non-profit. It was truly rewarding to have the opportunity to give back to an organization that had given me such a great internship experience. There is nothing quite like helping provide an opportunity for my fellow law students to learn invaluable skills while benefiting a community that I am forever connected to. After having this great of a time with LAAB in Watsonville, I can only imagine how much fun volunteering in New Orleans will be.