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IndyBar: Bar Leader Series Teams Tackle Community Issues Through Service Projects

February 24, 2016

By Kevin Morrissey, Lewis & Kappes PC; and Claire Emswiller, Emswiller Williams Noland & Clarke PC

Each year, the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Bar Leader Series provides a group of the bar’s rising stars with the tools and experiences that will further their growth into future leaders of the association and the Indianapolis community. Through insight from and interaction with top leaders in our community, a skill building retreat, and group discussion, the participants have been developing skills in communication and organization, and have been ascertaining the ability to motivate and inspire others.

One important experience provided by the Bar Leader Series is the opportunity to develop, organize and complete a community service project as a team. The teams conduct research to identify specific needs and challenges facing the community in order to cultivate a concrete project that directly addresses those needs in an active and sustainable way, often partnering with nonprofit organizations throughout Indianapolis. Bar Leader Series Class XIII has been divided into four groups to perform these projects, focusing their efforts on veterans, kids, public safety and education. The groups are well on their way to completing their projects this year and the Steering Committee of the Bar Leader Series Class XIII is very excited to report on their progress:

The Veterans Team has focused on facilitating volunteer opportunities for returning service members in order to provide those veterans with a sense of purpose as well as an outlet for their special skills, knowledge and experience. Through the team’s research, they identified that social isolation was a challenge that soldiers consistently faced when returning home. To address this challenge, the team has partnered with Easter Seals and the Pike YMCA to bring together veterans and local youth who can benefit from mentoring and programming developed and planned by the group. The team also envisions coordination of a volunteer fair for veterans to provide information regarding other opportunities and organizations with which they can become involved. The team is in the process of recruiting veterans to participate in the program and is finalizing programming with the Pike YMCA.

The Serving Kids Team has focused its efforts on providing support and information to communities and individuals that influence children. They have developed a program that directly addresses the chronic issues facing the at-risk, under-privileged and under-served youth community in Indianapolis by making resources, education and guidance more readily available to the individuals who make up the primary support system for these at-risk children. Specifically, this team has partnered with George Washington High School and is targeting crime, mental health and educational opportunities. The team has organized a resource fair where a number of important community partners will participate to provide information and services to the educators, children and families at the school. These organizations include physical and mental health care providers, law enforcement, children’s services, and key educational institutions. In addition, this group organized breakout workshops for the educators to engage with community partners to provide reinforcement and continuity between teachers and parents.

Our Public Safety Team took a unique approach to the problem of crime in Indianapolis. While researching demonstrated needs in the community, team members honed in on the connection between lack of street lighting and high-crime areas. Specifically, the group identified certain existing legal impediments limiting the expansion of new street lighting in the city. This team has partnered with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and IPL to identify inoperative street lights, distribute at least 1,000 light bulbs and educate the public about the importance of street and porch lighting. Moreover, this group has fostered a strong relationship with the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association to raise awareness of this issue throughout that community. They hope to share their experiences and results with stakeholders in similar communities (including other neighborhood associations) for use as tools to advocate and/or to gain funding for similar improvements in other areas of the city experiencing the same challenges.

Finally, the Education Team explored needs within the educational community, specifically fourth through sixth grade at Louis Robinson Elementary School (School 48). This team spoke with administrators and teachers at the school who emphasized that many of the children would benefit from a consistent mentor who is focused on devoting his or her time and attention to the students and providing them with positive role models. Additionally, a number of these children struggle with finding an adult to help them with their homework. To address these concerns, the Education group has partnered with School 48 to provide monthly tutoring sessions throughout the spring semester. They are gathering volunteer mentors who have unique experiences, backgrounds, challenges and insight who are focused on efforts to inspire, motivate, and encourage each child during the project and beyond.

Collectively, the teams spend about 50 hours of their time outside the monthly Bar Leader Series sessions planning and implementing these projects. The teams will present their projects to their classmates, IndyBar leadership and Indianapolis community partners at their graduation in May. IndyBar members and guests are encouraged to attend graduation to hear firsthand about the great work done by this year’s class. Look for details in the near future at indybar.org.•
 

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