Since its founding in 1992, Temple Law’s Student Public Interest Network (SPIN) has raised over $300,000 for students who want to do public interest legal work. Now, SPIN is changing the way they disburse those funds.
Starting this year, SPIN will put a heavier emphasis on directly funding student public interest work through SPIN Honors Grants. Remaining money will continue to go to Temple Law School for federal summer work-study matching funds.
This is in sharp contrast to how SPIN has historically funded public interest work. In years past, close to 100% of the money raised by SPIN went to Temple Law for matching federal work-study funds. Then, with their remaining funds, SPIN would award up to $2,000 in honors grants directly to students. This year, SPIN expects that number to rise above $8,000, while still pledging $5,000 to Temple Law for matching funds.
Abigail Thibeault, Co-President of SPIN, said the change was made to further incentivize SPIN participation and public interest work. “We realized it was possible for students to get matching funds through the Federal Work Study Program without doing SPIN,” said Thibeault.
Additionally, says Thibeault, the new funding method should work better for students, since, “the more money students raise, the more they get.”
Thibeault expects SPIN to give out 15-20 grants in 2014-2015, with awards ranging from $250 to $1,000. To be eligible for an honors grant, students will need to earn at least 15 SPIN points and help with SPIN’s annual auction in the spring.
Students can earn those points through a variety of actions, including attendance at SPIN approved events, which can be found on the SPIN calendar on the first floor of Klein Hall and online. Students can also earn one SPIN point for every two hours of volunteer work with their favorite organization. Thibeault, for example, will earn SPIN points when she delivers meals to families with the Breathing Room Foundation around Thanksgiving.
While students will need to earn their SPIN points to receive an honors grant, they will not need to earn SPIN points to secure a matching fund from Temple Law School.
One of the largest student organizations at Temple Law School, SPIN raises money through small events like bake sales and t-shirt sales, as well as larger events like their annual online auction of donated items and experiences and the annual Deans’ Cup basketball game, in which Temple Law students and faculty compete against Villanova Law students and faculty.
That money makes it possible for SPIN to fund student public interest work at a number of government offices, judicial internships, and community organizations, from Community Legal Services to Philadelphia Legal Assistance to Women Against Abuse. The organizations get significant work from the students, while students gain valuable experience. “Students take on clients, write legal briefs, and even write court opinions,” said Thibeault. “This kind of real world experience is essential in a competitive job market and, hopefully, meaningful for students.”