HL Central moves from social scene to social conscience

BY MIKE WISER

HL Central, for a lot of 2Ls and 3Ls, is synonymous with bar reviews, a website and maybe free donuts on Friday morning. The six-member board of the organization, elected in the spring, is hoping that students will add one more item to that list: community service.

Within days of the attack on the New York and Washington, the community-building organization announced to the school that it would provide funds to students who needed to travel home to be with family or close friends. Naomi Klein ’02 the Finance Chair said that the organization maintains funds for students to draw on when dealing with personal crises.

“This is the first opportunity that we have to publicize this and the first time we thought there might be a general need,” Klein said. While no one has asked for assistance yet, members of HL Central’s board said that students could come to them to ask for similar assistance in the future.

The money for these initiatives and the organization as a whole comes partly from donations that firms give HL Central in return for the organization’s help in planning and publicizing receptions and recruiting events. They also receive donations from other corporations listed on their web page.

Providing resources to students during a time of need is only a part of the organization’s extended community service mission.

“The goal when we do give out money is not just financial support,” said Niki Fisher ’02, co-chair of HL Central’s section committee. The organization hopes to use its resources to organize everything from community service projects to an Internet database with volunteer opportunities.

The new initiatives are being spearheaded by Ariane Decker ’03 (JD/MPP), who created a similar program while she was in college. Decker said that she was working to create community service projects for each section, organize one-day public service projects and assist school organizations with planning their own activities.

Beyond organizing projects, Decker hopes that HL Central will provide a resource for volunteers.

“I’d like to get a database of opportunities for individual people up on the web of organizations that I’ve contacted that I know need help and need volunteers,” she said.

While HL Central has long been known as a social organization, the board is convinced that it can change its image.

“We are trying to introduce HL Central as much more than a social organization right from the beginning,” Klein said, discussing how the organization wishes to present itself to 1Ls.

The board members the RECORD talked to were also convinced that students will be willing to pitch in and volunteer.

“I … think that in light of last week’s events there is a heightened awareness of the need for individuals to contribute in different ways,” Fisher said.

Decker added that students can get a lot from community service.

“You can take as many ethics classes as you want, but there is something important about learning to do things for others and learning to look beyond just yourself,” she said. “And it is always a really fun thing to be involved.”

The organization is also hoping that scholarships and awards will encourage students to commit to public service. This year HL Central launched a $1,000 scholarship that will be awarded to a 1L who worked on community development during college. Students can obtain applications, due Oct. 1, 2001, on the HL Central website.

When HL Central was founded by T.J. Duane ’02, its founder emphasized organizing bar reviews and hosting a website to facilitate student interaction. But the current board, which took over when Duane stepped down, said that community service has always been a part of the organization’s mission.

“T.J. right away had the ultimate goal of developing it into this,” Fisher said.

Since the organization has only been around for two years, members are still working to define exactly what it is and how it works. According to Klein, the entering 1L class will play a vital role in shaping what the organization does.

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