Students trot to help retired horses
By Richard Goldstein
Among the paddocks along rolling, windswept meadows in rural Alachua County, a horse plays hard to get. With his hoof. Nine UF Law students are among the volunteers grooming the thoroughbred Sunshine, the donkey Shamrock and other equine residents of Mill Creek Farm for Retired Horses. It’s a weekly ritual to keep the retired service animals healthy and happy in a sprawling horse heaven on 335 acres.
UF Law students are organized on this Saturday, Oct. 12, morning by Cara Fraser (3L) as part of an ongoing volunteer effort, itself an extension of a community service day for 1Ls that Dean Robert Jerry began when he came to UF Law a decade ago. UF Law 1Ls engage in community service under the auspices of Introduction to Law School and the Profession.
Jerry says community service is good for the community, good for the image of the law school, and also helps to build a community within the college of law itself.
“When students spend three hours together painting a Habitat for Humanity house, they get to know each other very well, very quickly,” he said. “It creates friendships and bonding and helps create a sense of community within the college.”
Fraser confirms the theory, noting that there are students from each of the J.D. classes volunteering. It’s a form of socializing that wouldn’t necessarily happen in the course of their studies, she said.
Fraser and other Service Committee members working with the Office of Student Affairs have expanded the one-day community service for 1Ls to a bi-weekly program encompassing all the law classes and continuing throughout the school year. Students can sign up and log hours to earn a community service certificate. According to data kept by Michelle Ocepek, director of student programs, students have performed 1,165 hours of community service this semester through the two programs.
Information about volunteer opportunities are available through the TWEN page (ILSP Community Service Continuing Opportunties), Facebook, email and are advertised on the daily calendar. Faculty and staff are welcome to participate. The final volunteer effort of the semester will be Nov. 16, 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. with Habitat for Humanity. For more information go to www.law.ufl.edu/career/students/pro-bono-community-service.
At Mill Creek Farm, the UF Law volunteers were led by an experienced crew boss, Elayne McNamara. McNamara explained how to corral the creatures, brush them down, slosh sunscreen on the pink-skinned ones, scrape dirt out of their hooves, check for sores and injuries – all the while avoiding getting stepped on or kicked. McNamara complimented the students on moving fast and listening to instructions about staying safe among the powerful animals.
The horse farm is one of several locations that UF Law students perform community service. Others include the Children’s Home Society, the Alachua County Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity.
Fraser expressed hope that the more robust version of community service program that she is spearheading lives on at UF Law.
“One of the goals in our law school is to turn us into leaders in our community,” she said. “Hopefully, this continues 20, 30 years at least.”