There are any number of reasons attorneys volunteer. Some volunteer out of a sense of social responsibility learned at home. Some volunteer out of a sense of corporate responsibility supported by their firm. Still others volunteer out of a sense of urgency for a particular cause. Maybe there are as many reasons to volunteer as there are causes to support.
One such cause was started in the late 1980s by a group of community-minded leaders in Baltimore who wanted to see students who aspired to go to college get the help they needed to get there. They believed that any child in the Baltimore City school district should have that opportunity regardless of resources.
The group also knew that getting in was only half the battle. The other half was having a support system in place to help keep the kids there once the admissions process was finished. College can be an intimidating experience regardless of your background, and students need help until they can get their feet solidly on the ground.
As a direct result of the efforts of this group of concerned citizens, the CollegeBound Foundation was created as an independent, non-profit program whose purpose was to work with Baltimore City students to help them achieve a post-secondary education. Kenneth Hoffman, Esq., an attorney in Venable’s Baltimore office, volunteers because he believes in volunteerism.
Hoffman believes in the importance of a support system when it comes to getting an education. “If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of my girlfriend, now my wife of 35 years, I might not have gone to college,” says Hoffman. “I know I could not have gone if it were not for the scholarships I received.”
College access programs such as the CollegeBound Foundation are committed to seeing that kids obtain the help they need to succeed, at every step of the way. “Giving them the information and the resources they need, with the application process, with the financial aid process – just helping the students navigate that whole process is absolutely critical,” states Hoffman. “There can be barriers to even the most diligent student that you need help to overcome.”
This is why Hoffman has spent years volunteering for the CollegeBound Foundation. When an attorney was needed to help facilitate the original charter, Ken Hoffman stepped up to the plate. He has served on the foundation’s Board of Directors for the last 15 years, as well as Chair from 1999 – 2002. Hoffman was also asked to help initiate the Lawyer’s Campaign, now in its sixteenth year.
Attorneys not only volunteer to help raise the money that is needed, but they also volunteer to serve on the board and, from time to time, to help students with any legal matters that become barriers to getting into college. “One of the nice returns we are now getting, as we have matured as an organization, is Foundation scholar graduates are coming back to help,” Hoffman says. “I tell the students that this is a chance ‘to pay it forward’ – to help give the same opportunity to others that they received.”
Another attorney who was impressed by the returning students was David Shuster, a principal with the Baltimore firm of Kramon & Graham, P.A. “About eight years ago, when I first got involved,“ Shuster reflects, “I attended an event and heard one of the returning scholars speak. He talked about how instrumental the agency had been in his life. I’ll never forget his line: ‘Before CollegeBound, I was on the streets more than the MTA.’”
That young speaker inspired Shuster to get involved, but what kept him committed over the years was how effective the organization was. “I was also impressed with the ability of this organization to affect people’s lives here, in Baltimore, in a very direct way,” Shuster says. Some of the statistics show the impact his organization has had. In 2007:
- 8,600 Baltimore students attended college fairs;
- 1,080 attended college tours;
- ,300 received one-on-one counseling from area colleges;
- The organization was able to get $40,000 in college admission fees wavered.
The number of students who are admitted to college and stay there is also impressive. It is of no small consequence that the students CollegeBound works with are high-risk children. Yet the retention rate for this group is higher than the national average for all students.
In addition to recruiting students to attend college fairs and tours, the Foundation also awards last-hour grants to cover shortages in financial aid packages. For these students, a shortage of $1,000 or $1,500 could mean the difference between attending and not attending.
“There is a mass of students in the school system who have the grades but not the support they need to see college as possible,” Shuster says. “CollegeBound helps them see college as a possibility, and then supports them in their efforts to make it a reality.”
If you are interested in learning more about CollegeBound Foundation, visit their website at www.collegeboundfoundation.org. You can also support the 16th Annual Lawyers’ Campaign at www.cbf-law.org. The campaign concludes on December 31, 2008.
Support the legal service agencies in your community. Add your resources to the fight. For more information on volunteer opportunities in Maryland, please contact the Pro Bono Resource Center office at (410) 837-9379 or (800) 396-1274, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jon Moseley is Director of Volunteer Services & Community Outreach for the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.