Alternative spring break cultivates student outreach work, assists migrant workers

For the second consecutive year, 35 Coastal Law students participated in the Alternative Spring Break Migrant Worker Justice Immersion Program. The outreach experience brought students to migrant labor camps in North and Central Florida.

The inventive spring break initiative, in partnership with Florida Legal Services Migrant Farmworker Justice Program, is directed by Coastal Law faculty advisors Robert Hornstein and Karen Millard. Daniela Dwyer of the migrant farmworker program, a migrant rights attorney, oversees the program during Spring Break.

“The concept of an alternative spring break program that focuses on migrant labor rights and issues helps meet a critical need for an underserved community,” Hornstein said. “The program simultaneously exposes law students to the pressing needs of an impoverished population, the vital importance of equal access to the courts and the promise of the law as an instrument for social justice.”

He said the intense, week-long immersion in migrant labor issues has influenced the way students think.

Last year’s experience made such a profound impact that a student steering committee was formed in the fall of 2010. The group organized and further developed the program so it would have continuity and long-term sustainability, Hornstein said. The steering committee worked with Florida Legal Services to organize this spring’s program.

Coastal Law student members of the steering committee included Nicole C. Devito, Mark A. Cox, John R. Nilon, Adam Beaugh, John K. Rice, Kevin D. Dewar, David E. Vergara, Christopher McLean, Manuel V. Souza, Jessica Y. Lazo, Keisha E. Cason, Weon Hyuck Chang and Cynthia Barnes.

“Migrant workers have always existed in the shadows of the nation’s commitment to social justice,” Hornstein said. “Because of their marginal social status, they have historically been the victims of severe economic abuse. Immersion in an intense, week-long migrant labor project can profoundly affect and influence law students and the way they think about access to justice and the ultimate paths they choose to follow through the law.”