The UC Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation (HPILF) has awarded a record 27 grants this year to students pursuing careers in public interest and public advocacy, up from 25 last year.
That number may still grow, according to 2L Mira Karageorge, co-president of HPILF, because students who receive funding from other sources will re-circulate a portion of their summer grants to allow other students to receive HPILF grant funding.
As the only student-run group with a 501(c)(3) designation, HPILF operates more like a professional nonprofit than a typical campus group, said Karageorge. By functioning this way, HPILF is able to offer a relatively large number of awards to students wanting to enrich their career choices in public interest and the public sector over the summer.
Students who work for law firms over the summer are often well compensated, while most public interest positions pay very little, if at all. So HPILF fills a huge funding gap. Through an annual fundraising Gala event, together with faculty donations and donations from firms, businesses, and individuals, the student organization provides $4,000 grants to students who have demonstrated a commitment to serving marginalized communities.
“It's quite remarkable," said Leeja Patel '11, Associate Director for Student Leadership and Community Development at UC Hastings, "when you consider that HPILF is giving out about $100,000 in student grants working in the public interest sector. No other organization has matched the grant donations made by HPILF. That represents 27 students who will be able to work in otherwise unpaid jobs that provide necessary legal resources to marginalized populations and communities."
HPILF has mastered a successful fundraising strategy. "HPILF has a history of being a successful organization and one worthy of people's donations," said Patel, "and this has led to recurring large and small donations of attorney's fees, staff salaries, outside funds, etc."
Now in its 31st year, the annual HPILF Gala (which took place on February 20, 2015) offers UC Hastings community members and Bay Area attorneys a chance to connect with others wanting to improve legal access to disenfranchised communities. Attendees bid on a wide range of auction items, from gift cards and tickets to sporting events and trips abroad. The entire HPILF board is instrumental in organizing the annual HPILF Gala. Co-presidents Mira Karageorge and Melly Bahai reached out to vendors, firms, and businesses to sponsor the HPILF annual gala, as did Gala Chairs Isaac Jackson, Whitney Geitz, and Natalie Koski-Karell. The whole team ran a well-organized and profitable event.
This year there was also a surge in the number of faculty member who made donations. Additionally, the Community Justice Clinics – which give students sole responsibility for handling real client cases under the supervision of faculty – allocated $20,000 of court-awarded attorney’s fees to help fund students’ summer work. This matched the allocation from the CJC made in the previous year.
It can be very difficult for students trying to break into the field of public interest and advocacy, so it is gratifying for HPILF board members as well as award recipients to know that they are supported by their community. "What is so impressive about HPILF is that it is an entirely-student run organization. HPILF is an organization of law students dedicating their limited spare time to fundraise, so that they can financially support their fellow students who are interested in civic duty," said Karageorge, who came to UC Hastings to become a civil rights attorney. "Joining HPILF was a way for me to feel connected to the main reason I decided to come to UC Hastings in the first place."
To donate to HPILF, please click here: http://www.uchastings.edu/news/articles/2014/05/hpilf-grants.php
This summer, HPILF grant-winners will take on various projects in the US and abroad working for various public advocacy organizations including: