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Student View: Michael Miller (’09)

Public service has long been an integral part of the legal profession. Many firms and bar associations encourage and even require attorneys to participate in pro bono publico work. The University’s motto, Pro Humanitate, guides many of the activities that exist at Wake Law.

While the law school has always offered a wide range of public interest opportunities, I and some of my fellow students saw the need to do a little more.

I teamed up with Britt Harlow (’08) and Josh Knipp (’09) to form the Youth Advocacy Group (YAG), a more service-intensive group. We envisioned this group as an umbrella organization to staff all the youth-related service opportunities available for law students.

We wanted the group to be active in the community. During the past two years, the YAG has collaborated with the Forsyth County Guardian ad Litem program, Kimberley Park Elementary School, Hanes Hosiery Community Center  and Winston-Salem TeenCourt to facilitate volunteering for anyone – students, faculty and staff – who wanted to give back.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the guardian ad litem program, coaching a team of 13-15 year olds to a basketball championship, and assisting kids of all ages with their  homework, the highlight of my YAG experience was the successful execution of two CommUNITY Cares Day events at Kimberley Park Elementary School.

Kimberley Park is flooded with excited, happy, energetic students and staff. However, directly outside the school’s walls, abandoned cars, boarded-up houses, and free-floating trash serve as reminders of life’s difficulties as the children walk to and from school. We thought the kids deserved better.

In the early months of 2008, a small group of YAG volunteers began planning a day of school beautification to show the youngsters that their community believed in them.

Thanks to funds donated by the law school, local merchants and individuals, CommUNITY Cares Day 2008 was a success. About 35 volunteers worked hand-in-hand with the Kimberly Park students and staff weeding, tilling, planting and mulching as well as laughing. In March, CommUNITY Cares Day 2009 built on that inaugural effort, attracting more than 75 volunteers. The ultimate moment of realization that our efforts were worthwhile occurred when I overheard a student exclaim, “It’s like we have a whole new school!”

Wake Forest helped me cultivate my desire to serve the public and allowed me to facilitate my classmates’ service interests. I look forward to continuing the spirit of the Pro Humanitate motto as I enter the working world.