“As a Bay Area native, having the opportunity to give back to the community through Berkeley’s Pro Bono Program and Student-Initiated Service Projects is incredible. From a young age, my parents instilled in me the importance of giving back and helping others. When deciding where I wanted to go to law school, it was important to me to go to a school where I had the opportunity to do pro bono work and help the surrounding community. Berkeley Law has allowed me to do just that.
During middle and high school, I volunteered at various food banks and soup kitchens around the Bay Area. Seeing families and kids my age stopping by for a hot meal or picking up groceries profoundly impacted me. I remember thinking how difficult it must be to do homework on an empty stomach or not knowing where your next meal would come from. While earning my undergraduate degree, I worked with students who struggled with food insecurity. During this time, the difficulties in accessing affordable and healthy food options when living in a large city also became apparent to me.
It was from these experiences that my interest in working to decrease food insecurity began and the Food Justice Project (FJP) allows me to work towards this goal. FJP assists students who believe they have been incorrectly denied CalFresh benefits go through the process of appealing the decision. CalFresh issues a monthly payment to individuals, allowing them access to buy food at many supermarkets and stores. Many Berkeley students rely on these funds to purchase food while earning their degrees and, when these funds are incorrectly denied or terminated, their lives are greatly impacted. As the Outreach Coordinator for FJP, I am working to increase awareness about the CalFresh appeals process and partnering with various campus groups to increase the visibility of FJP’s services. FJP allows me to have an immediate impact on the community while I am earning my degree at Berkeley Law, and I look forward to continuing to give back after graduation.
Getting involved with pro bono work has been the highlight of my time in law school. To see the direct impact your organization or your actions have on fellow students and the broader campus community is incredible. There is nothing like it!
Gabrielle “Gabby” Cirelli, JD ‘24