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Wendy Parker responds to President Barack Obama’s call for service

When President Barack Obama sent out his call for service, Wake Forest University Law Professor Wendy Parker responded. In February, Parker sent out her own call to law students and faculty, asking for volunteers to help tutor students after school at Kimberley Park Elementary School in Winston-Salem.

“I got the idea from my prior volunteer time at Kimberley Park, from the suggestion of the volunteer coordinator there,” Parker explained. “I also thought it was the right thing to do. I sent out an e-mail seeking 16 volunteers, and had over 35 volunteers within 24 hours.”

In the end, there were 39 volunteers who logged in more than 150 hours.

“Some immediately connected with the students and some identified the needs of the school and the students,” she said.

Plans call for the volunteer tutoring program to resume in the fall.

In addition to helping Kimberley Park students, Parker said she learned how hard the teachers at the elementary school just a few miles from the law school work.

The volunteering can be a wake-up call to how much they can contribute to their community.

“The kids are inherently interesting,” she said. “They have a lot on their mind. In a way I feel like I learn more than they learn. All I really want to do is get them enthusiastic about learning and confident about their abilities.”

Parker is no stranger to school issues. In addition to being the mother of 10-year-old Austin and 8-year-old Zoe, Parker is nationally recognized for her innovative scholarship in the area of civil rights, focusing on school desegregation and remedies for racial and ethnic discrimination.

Before teaching, she litigated school desegregation cases as a Skadden Arps Fellow and staff attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2006, she received the Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award from Wake Forest University School of Law.

Parker, who joined the faculty in 2003, says she believes it is important for Wake Law to form relationships with other organizations in the community so that we can all be better people and lawyers.

“No one should be stuck in a casebook/law book all year or only around fellow lawyers/law students,” she added. “The law students themselves learn a lot about the challenges many of the students at Kimberley Park face and about the complexities of how children best learn. Many law students have led very privileged lives. The volunteering can be a wake-up call to how much they can contribute to their community.”