Berkeley Law Alternative Service Trips (formerly Boalt on Break) is a student-led alternative service break organization that gives students the opportunity to provide pro bono legal services in communities outside of the Bay Area.
Our students travel to regions across the country, where they work alongside established legal services agencies. BLAST students are striving to do their part to make legal services more accessible to low-income and marginalized communities, and to help push for critical systemic reform.
In our first year as an organization, we sent eight students on one trip to eastern Kentucky. Read more about BLAST's inaugural trip here.
This year, we are thrilled to be sending 48 students on five tripsacross the United States! But we can't do it without your support.
Berkeley Law students certainly need not travel far to work to improve access to legal representation in rural communities. The Central Valley, an agricultural hub that provides more than half of the produce grown in the U.S., is a vibrant, diverse, and economically depressed region. Its residents often live in close proximity to hazardous waste facilities, are forced to cope with water scarcity, and frequently live in food deserts, unable to access or afford much of the produce over which they have labored. The Central Valley is a complex region and defies all stereotypes one might know of California. Students will work to address the justice gap that disproportionately affects rural areas, working with low-income clients in a community not far from their own.
Lack of adequate legal representation is one of the many ill effects pervasive poverty has wrought on rural Appalachia. Participants in BLAST: Kentucky will travel to the region and engage in both direct legal services and legal research with two eastern Kentucky organizations dedicated to serving vulnerable populations. Areas of focus include black lung benefits claims, pro se divorce proceedings, health and welfare services, and environmental impact.
BLAST: Mississippi students will contribute to the ongoing fight for criminal justice reform. In the state of Mississippi, students are given unique access to juvenile county court proceedings. Our students will capitalize on this access, traveling across the state to collect data regarding access to and quality of representation, as well as assessing for due process concerns, in juvenile proceedings. Upon return to Berkeley, students will analyze their findings and draft a critical report on the status of indigent juvenile defense, which is particularly important given the otherwise closed nature of juvenile court proceedings. This report will be used by local agencies in their ongoing policy reform efforts.
The homeless population of Los Angeles could fill a stadium and then some. Legal services agencies in Los Angeles are on the front lines of the fight to prevent homelessness, end homelessness, and mitigate the effects of homelessness on individual's lives. Eight students will spend the week participating in that fight, allowing their partnering organizations to reach more clients in need. Students will provide public benefits assistance to individuals currently assisting homelessness, as well as eviction defense and housing retention services to those at risk of homelessness.
Under the harsh policies of the current administration, providing direct legal services to detained immigrants is needed more than ever. Only 14% of those detained have access to counsel. Students on the South Texas trip will work to change that. We will split into two teams, working at detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border. One team will assist at the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas, which is the largest immigrant family detention center in the country, while another team will assist at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas. This work has never been more important, as immigrants continue to live under the threat of ICE's expansion of power.
BLAST will draw from a number of funding sources in order to keep the trip virtually free for all student participants. This will allow us to recruit a diverse group of students from various socioeconomic backgrounds, many of whom plan to pursue careers in public interest legal work, earning a fraction of what their legal peers in the private sector will earn, despite massive amounts of student loan debt.
100% of your donations will go toward travel expenses, lodging, and meals.