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March 16, 2006 • Volume 14 Number 13

Participants in this year's Appalachia Volunteers Program gathered at St. Ignatius March 3 for a Mass before embarking on their service trips to various locations in Appalachia and the Gulf Coast region. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Boston College Undergrads, Law Students Spring Into Service During Recent Break

Some 700 student members of Boston College's Appalachia Volunteers Program traded sun and fun for service to others during spring break last week, traveling to impoverished areas of Appalachia and the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast region to assist the residents there.

The student-run group's volunteer activity is the largest of a number of spring break service efforts sponsored by BC's Office of Campus Ministry. More than 60 students headed to locations in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Jamaica, as well as to Chiapas, Mexico, on international immersion service trips.

This was the first time the Appalachia Volunteers traveled to the Gulf Coast region during spring break. The trip was a follow-up to an initial trip there to assist Katrina victims during the past winter break.

Before departing, the students gathered for a send-off Mass at St. Ignatius Church March 3, celebrated by Campus Ministry Director Rev. James Erps, SJ.

The Boston College Appalachia Volunteers began as a single trip involving 16 students in 1979 and has evolved into one of BC's largest and most popular volunteer programs, annually sending more than 600 students to more than 35 sites across the Appalachia region, working with Habitat for Humanity and Volunteers for Communities in both rural and urban settings.

The program has an 11 member student council that sets up and runs the trips, and student fundraising comprises the majority of the organization's $300,000 budget.

Meanwhile, 19 first-year BC Law students spent their spring break last month volunteering to provide legal assistance to indigent non-citizens who were in detention facing deportation. The students worked for non-profit organizations in Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Miami and Harlingen, Tex.

Students helped detained asylum-seekers to complete application forms for protection under US immigration law, assisted staff attorneys with intake interviews at immigration detention centers, researched human rights conditions to support asylum seekers' claims of persecution and drafted motions and legal memoranda for staff attorneys. The students all gained considerable knowledge of immigration law and the deportation process, especially as it affects immigrants in detention.

Prior to the students' departure, the students received training in US immigration law from Clinical Prof. Daniel Kanstroom, director of the Law School's Human Rights Programs, and Boston College Immigration and Asylum Project Staff Attorney Mary Holper. Holper also accompanied the Texas group to supervise the students' work.

-Office of Public Affairs staff; Law School Communications Manager Nate Kenyon contributed to this story.

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