From left: Professor Samuel Kan, Jake Flores (3L), Abigail Kern ‘23, Dean Leticia Diaz, Caleb Nelson (2L), Christianne Dreyer (2L), Sarah Fougere (3L)
Barry University School of Law Honored with American Bar Association Law Student Division award for VITA program
Law The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Barry University School of Law has earned the 2023 Judy M. Weightman Memorial Public Interest Award from the American Bar Association Law Student Division. Orlando, FL – September 30, 2023
The award recognizes law students and law schools that have made exceptional contributions to underrepresented groups or have championed public interest causes, either outside the law school environment or within the realm of public service at the law school.
Every tax season, Barry School of Law students aid community members from low-income backgrounds, who cannot afford professional tax services, in filing their federal income taxes.
“We are immensely honored to receive this notable award. It underscores the tireless efforts and unwavering commitment of our law students and faculty members who have been instrumental in the success of the VITA program,” commented Leticia M. Diaz, Dean of Barry University School of Law. “We are thrilled that our dedication to public service and community empowerment is being recognized on a national platform.”
This year, the program had over 30 Barry Law student volunteers including 2 CPAs who prepared a total of 107 income tax returns which resulted in $120,828 dollars in refunds.
Barry Law Professor Samuel Kan, who serves as the faculty advisor to the VITA program, assisted students with some of the more complex issues and answered questions for those having their taxes prepared. The oversight of the student volunteers is handled by the VITA E-Board, which is composed of student leaders who are selected each year to serve for the following tax season.
“This achievement would not have been possible without the efforts of our dedicated student leaders, including our site coordinator Abigail Kern and our designated quality reviewers, Bao Le and Caleb Nelson. This award is a reflection of our mission to make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve. It reinvigorates our team’s resolve to persist in our public interest work and underscores the meaningful change that collective effort can bring about. Our upcoming tax season site coordinators, Christianne Dreyer and Jake Flores have big shoes to fill,” said Professor Samuel Kan.
The Law Student Division Public Interest Award serves as a testament to Professor Judy M. Weightman of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii. Professor Weightman, before losing her battle with breast cancer in 1998, demonstrated her passion for justice and tirelessly advocated on behalf of minorities and the poor. This award recognizes law students and law schools who have made outstanding contributions to underrepresented groups or public interest causes outside the law school and/or in public service at the law school.
For more information about Barry University School of Law or the VITA program, visit us at barry.edu/law.