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Fitz Center for Leadership in Community

Community Collaboration and Activism

By Vanessa Carey

When I discovered the opportunity that is the Fitz Center’s Semester of Service program, I was thrilled at the chance to work in a hands-on position within Dayton’s community.  The program catered to my professional and community interests and I was matched with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, or ABLE.  ABLE is a non-profit regional law firm located in downtown Dayton that provides legal assistance in civil matters to low-income individuals across western Ohio.  My match with ABLE meant that while I was able to learn about a variety of case law, I was also able to meet with and engage with community activists working on current issues impacting the city.

My time at ABLE has exposed me to housing law, environmental law, and a class-action criminal lawsuit regarding the Montgomery County Jail.  I have been able to sit in on community meetings discussing possible responses to Dayton’s food desert problem, take notes and observe housing court, and work with clients in immigration matters.  I have had the privilege of working with several attorneys and paralegals in a professional environment while also having the opportunity to serve the Dayton community in my volunteer role.

My culminating project at ABLE has been one of the most rewarding aspects of of my service experience.  I have assisted in the coordination and logistics in bringing federal investigators to Dayton from the Department of Health and Human Services.  They will address a Title 6 complaint lodged by ABLE in collaboration with the Community Clergy Coalition. The complaint addresses the unprecedented closing of Good Samaritan Hospital, a key medical resource for west Dayton’s residents.  ABLE and the CCC believe the closing of the hospital has unfairly impacted Dayton’s black community. My part in the investigation has not only taught me about key issues impacting the city of Dayton, but also has taught me the value in community collaboration and activism.

I am extremely thankful for the opportunity afforded to me by the Semester of Service program and ABLE.  It can be quite easy to learn about the issues impacting a community in a classroom, but a completely different experience seeing those issues and the people working on fighting them in their everyday life.  Fortunately, I have been able to do both this past semester.

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