In this season of reflection and gratitude, many people look for ways to give back. Here are a few upcoming opportunities to get more involved in the community:
(1) Participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and help low and moderate-income taxpayers fill out tax returns and offer consultations on special credits, such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly. You can learn more about how to get involved at the upcoming VITA information session.
(2) Teach high school students across Massachusetts about making informed and effective decisions regarding their finances through educational and experiential opportunities in the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy program. You can teach students about credit cards, checking accounts, budgeting, and more.
(3) Hire a local high school student for an 8-week internship at your law firm through our Summer Jobs program. Help students learn about the field of law and gain career experience.
As we move into some of the coldest months here in New England, we have been reflecting on some of the bright spots over the past year. For example, last summer, ten Boston Public high school students had paying jobs at non-profit legal services organizations, government agencies and in the courts. One student told us about her experience –“I have been exposed to brilliant people who shared their experiences with me, and helped me form an idea of the career path I might want to take.”
US Bankruptcy Judge Joan Feeney talking with students during the final Module of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program.
With the help of hundreds of volunteers, the US Bankruptcy Court and the Boston Public Schools, we have impressed the importance of prudent financial management upon young minds through the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. This program not only helps teens see how they might be able to save for a car, but hopefully can help them avoid bankruptcy later in life.
And in the Housing Court, BBA volunteers assisted more than 1,000 individuals struggling to navigate a complex, overburdened court system. This program gives hope and relief to pro se landlords and tenants at a time in their lives when one of their basic needs is at stake.
What do these programs have in common? They are all run with funding provided by the Boston Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the BBA.
The BBF is perhaps most well-known for its role in granting funds to legal services organizations in our community. These Boston-based programs operate in all areas of need – from giving children access to equal education and life opportunities, providing counseling and advice to homeless and at risk veterans, and helping thousands of families facing foreclosure learn their legal rights and fight displacement. But what many people don’t know is that the BBF is also providing a helping hand on the community service front, and working with the BBA to improve lives and strengthen neighborhoods.
As the holiday season approaches, the BBF will be launching its Annual Campaign to help support this work. The tax-deductible donations made to the Annual Campaign help provide a solid base of support as the BBF renews its commitment to increasing access to justice for those who need it most, providing opportunities for young people and engaging lawyers in the kind of projects that improve the lives of those in our community.
Learn more at http://www.bostonbarfoundation.org/Support/annual_appeal.html.
The Summer Jobs Program is not simply an employment opportunity for students, but an enrichment experience – with a strong focus on education. Students in the program attend weekly seminars on rights and responsibilities in the workplace, civic responsibility, and the judicial system.
Beyond the Billable reached out to Anthony Betances, a 2011 participant to find out what he thought about the enrichment program.
Anthony Betances, 2011 Summer Jobs Participant
My favorite seminar took place at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The reason it was my favorite was because it put into practice many of the things that we had already heard about in the past seminars. We already knew that irresponsible spending could carry serious consequences, and we had been given some information on bankruptcy, but the unfolding of the process in front of our very own eyes had more of an impact. All of a sudden, someone spending $40,000 or so but getting hit with more than $80,000 in fees and interest became more real, as did the possibility of buying a car and getting into more debt than that new car is even worth. It really just showed how ridiculous and reckless things can get if you’re not proactive about, and conscious of, your financial life.
The Summer Jobs Program is a longstanding collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, the City of Boston, and the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC). The students are high school rising juniors, seniors and college freshmen, with some work and volunteer experience. All participants completed an application, provided at least two letters of recommendation, and submitted an essay explaining why they want to participate in this program. The students are high-achievers with their eyes set on college. For many of the students, this program will be their first exposure to law as a profession.
After visiting 7 schools, convening 52 classes and reaching over 430 students, the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program has concluded its 2012 program year. This year’s program represented a high water mark in both the number of students served and the number of volunteers mobilized. 87 lawyers, law students, and financial planners donated over 420 hours to teach high school juniors and seniors in Boston, Greater Boston, Worcester and Springfield. The M. Ellen Carpenter represents a public service partnership between the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts, and is now in its 8th year.
At the heart of the program is teaching students the importance of making sound financial decisions, and avoiding the poor credit choices that can result in bankruptcy. Through interactive discussions held over the course of four sessions, the students and volunteers covered personal finance, budgeting, credit cards , financing a car, and personal bankruptcy. With support from the Boston Bar Foundation, students traveled to the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield for the final session, a mock bankruptcy hearing.
Hear what volunteers have to say about the students, the Program and why they donate their time:
“I volunteered because I cannot believe that a course in basic financial literacy is not required to receive a high school diploma. I was lucky to have parents who taught me the basics- like how to make a budget (i.e, how to figure out that you can’t afford even 10% of the stuff that your teenage self wants), how to live within (or even remotely close to within) your budget, how to balance your checkbook, how to save for college (or a car or a computer or a trip abroad), and how to not go crazy with credit cards. But not everyone has someone to teach them the basics. And I don’t know how we expect these kids to become functioning, let alone successful, adults without these skills. I wish that financial literacy was a part of every school’s curriculum. – Kristin Davis of K&L Gates
“I was worried that it would be like pulling teeth to get high school kids interested in credit, but they were very eager to learn and participate. I was most impressed when the students had questions or wanted to participate without being asked to do so. They seemed genuinely interested in learning the subject matter.”- Jessica Massey of the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General
“I would hope students understood that credit cards are more than likely going to be a part of their lives and that if used responsibly, they do provide benefits. However, at the same time, if used the wrong way, they can be very dangerous and lead to major financial problems.”- Michael Licker of Foley Hoag
“The most memorable part of the session was when the students shared with us their experiences with lending and borrowing money. For those that had borrowed from friends and family in the past, it was interesting to see how many of them had in fact been charged interest. Upon learning of the inordinately high interest that some of the students had paid to their friends, we shared a few laughs with the students as we explained “loan sharking” to them. – Shemane Amin of Brown Rudnick LLP
The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program would not be possible without volunteers committed to giving back to the children and youth in our community. A special thanks to the following volunteers for the time they have donated to planning the 2012 Program and teaching the classes:
Honorable Joan Feeney, Program Co-Chair, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Honorable Frank Bailey, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Honorable Henry Boroff, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Honorable Melvin Hoffman, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Janet Bostwick, Program Co-Chair, Janet E. Bostwick, PC
Jeanne Darcey, Program Co-Chair, Sullivan & Worcester LLP
Adam Ruttenberg, Looney & Grossman LLP
Adrienne Walker, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.