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For first-year Howard University law student Alexis Logan, it was the water-stained family photos still hanging from the walls of a 9th Ward resident’s home that overwhelmed her with sorrow as she prepared to throw away 30 years or more of memories from the house last year during a spring break trip to New Orleans. “Everything was covered in dried mud. Clothes, shoes, and other belongings were still in closets, mildewed and falling apart, and the smell from the rotting food of six months in the refrigerator had filled the house. It was my job, along with other student aides to clean it all out,” says 22-year-old Logan. “As we carried things to the front yard for the elderly black man to sort through to keep, I remember him yelling over and over, ‘This is my home. What are you doing? This is my home.’ “ This year, while most spring breakers head to party hot spots like Panama City, Fla., several D.C.-based law students will again be traveling to a far less party-driven environment, the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, to provide legal aid. More than 100 law students from Howard University School of Law, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clark School of Law, and George Mason University School of Law will be embarking on a weeklong journey this month to take part in the alternative spring break programs in conjunction with the Student Hurricane Network, a student-run nonprofit organization that coordinates law student trips intended to provide legal aid to Hurricane Katrina victims. “The community needs help. A lot of work needs to be done down in the Gulf Coast, and I feel using law as an tool can definitely help,” says Josephine Ross, an associate professor at Howard University School of Law and one of the faculty members coordinating the program. Through the Student Hurricane Network, law students, not just from the District but from across the nation, will be paired with law firms and local legal-aid agencies in the Gulf Coast to provide support on issues such as criminal displacement and to assist homeowners in clearing their property titles in order to receive federal benefits and rebuild their homes. Last year, Howard sent about 30 students to the Gulf Coast area. This year, students from UDC and George Mason will be making the trip for the first time. So far, only UDC’s law school has taken the legal needs of those affected by the hurricane and put them into an entire semester experience. The course, called “Katrina and Beyond: Disaster, Prevention and Recovery,” focuses on informing students about the issues that were prevalent before the hurricane struck and the issues now being faced by Gulf Coast residents in the aftermath, says Susan Wansdorf, one of the law professors teaching the course. Another project students will be working on is defending the rights of immigrant workers with the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, which will provide “street law” assistance to immigrants, helping them to better understand their basic rights. For Andrea Loveless, a third-year law student at George Mason, the wait to go down to Louisiana and start helping is a source of excitement but also nervousness. “I expect to be very moved by the day-to-day actions of the people while I’m down there, and I expect it [to] be shocking. But I’m ready to go,” Loveless says. Tifany Williams is an intern at Legal Times . She can be contacted at [email protected].

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