Every week, dozens of underrepresented youth affected by the criminal justice system—many of them finding it difficult to successfully reenter society—receive legal help through Youth Represent (“YR”), a nonprofit organization founded and directed by Adjunct Professor Laurie Parise ’04. For its inspiring work, Youth Represent has been named an inaugural NYC Innovative Nonprofit Award recipient. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the 10 winners at a ceremony held at Gracie Mansion on May 22.
Created by Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunities (CEO), the award supports “pioneering local nonprofits that exhibit creative approaches and exemplary program implementation.” The selection committee, composed of academics, City officials, and national nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, reviewed proposals from more than 50 organizations vying for recognition. Youth Represent was selected for “ensuring individualized, comprehensive legal services for court-involved young people and helping clean up hundreds of rap sheets,” the committee noted. Other awardees include the Center for Court Innovation, Food Bank for New York City, Green City Force, and Project Renewal.
“These organizations have proven records of improving lives in their communities, helping set New Yorkers on a path toward greater economic mobility,” said Mayor Bloomberg in a statement announcing the winners.
Professor Parise founded Youth Represent in 2006. She was also a guiding force in launching the Youth Reentry and Legal Services Clinic at BLS, which just completed its successful second year. The collaboration between the Clinic and Youth Represent has benefited law students and YR clients alike. Students gain practical hands-on experience during the year and also discuss substantive, procedural and ethical issues in weekly classroom sessions. YR clients receive one-on-one assistance from Clinic students, supervised by Professor Parise and her staff. During 2011-2012, Youth Represent attorneys worked on 1,183 new cases for 849 court-involved youth.
“It is wonderful that Youth Represents is getting such public recognition for the important advocacy and justice work that they perform for the community,” said Professor Stacy Caplow, Director of BLS’s Clinical Education Program. “The Law School’s clinical program is fortunate to have the benefit of a partnership with such an innovative, award-winning program.”
She went on to praise Professor Parise’s “creativity and energy” in supervising students and making the most of classroom time. “Her passion for the work, her entrepreneurial spirit, and her commitment to meaningful student experiences has made the Clinic an extremely valuable learning experience,” Professor Caplow said.
A former Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Fellow, Professor Parise secured several postgraduate awards and grants to fund her Youth Represent work, including the prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowship and an Echoing Green award. Her commitment to assisting disenfranchised populations began in 1990 at the Rainforest Foundation, where she helped protect indigenous peoples’ rights. After 11 years with the organization, during the last five of which she served as Executive Director, Professor Parise decided to attend law school to “develop new skills in order to promote social justice in other segments of society,” she said.
Professor Parise is not the only BLS graduate making an impact at Youth Represent. Director of Community Partnerships, Michael Pope ’10, also a former Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Fellow, first joined the organization in 2010 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow and now works there full-time. In addition, Maire O’Malley ’13, a recent graduate and student in the Youth Reentry and Legal Services Clinic will be starting at YR in the fall.
“The dedicated work of Laurie, Michael, and the many other alumni who give back to the Law School continually supports and strengthens the quality of our curriculum,” said Dean Nick Allard.
Read more about the Clinical Program at BLS.