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Reigning VITA Champ Barry Law Continues Momentum


By Leanna H. Cannafax

Leanna H. Cannafax, a 3L at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson, Mississippi, is an ABA representative of the Law Student Division.

This year’s winner of the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program Award was a repeat: Barry University—Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law has won the ABA Law Student Division VITA Program Award for nine consecutive years.

Barry Law’s VITA program is not slowing down anytime soon. The national award was announced and presented to the Barry VITA Program at the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston this past August.

Law student Nelson Crespo, president of the executive board of the Barry VITA program, said he began participating in the VITA program to complete the pro bono requirement. However, he quickly saw that the program was more than just a way to accumulate pro bono hours.

The executive board sees VITA as a way to give back to the community. Crespo said, “Through my time with the program I have learned not only about taxes, but also how to interact with individuals from many walks of life. It is a really great and rewarding feeling giving back to my community.”

Jessica McMenemy, also on the Barry VITA program executive board, became involved in VITA because she has always been good with numbers. “I learned a ton with just one year with VITA. It’s so interesting how a family’s tax refund can be so different with one more or one less factor,” she said.

With their heads buried in law books and eyes focused on research, law students do not always have the extra time to volunteer. However, Norbert PJ Gilbert, vice president of the board, said his volunteer work with VITA was an important learning experience.

Gilbert, like Crespo, originally became involved in the VITA program to earn pro bono hours toward the school requirement. Gilbert quickly saw that VITA was hands-on learning. “Through volunteering, I have also learned valuable client interviewing skills, which I hope to take with me in my practice,” he said.

After winning the national ABA Law Student Division VITA Program Award nine years in a row, Barry Law continues to gain steam. The program’s success is an obvious reflection of its caliber of students, whose desire to help the community for the purpose of learning and helping one another shines bright.

3L Thomas Pentilla, Barry VITA program treasurer, put it simply: “Taxes are scary and no one should take them on alone.”

With such dedication to serving their community, the only question remaining is, will they win again?

Vol. 43 No. 4

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.