GCC students will soon have legal aid on campus
Community Legal Aid paralegal Wendy Kane
Community Legal Aid Managing Attorney Jennifer Dieringer
GCC Women's Resource Center Coordinator Rosemarie Freeland
GREENFIELD — A legal aid organization will be establishing a presence on the Greenfield Community College campus to help students tackle issues that may be getting in the way of their education.
Community Legal Aid, which offers free legal assistance to low-income families in central and western Massachusetts, will lead seminars on various issues and send paralegal Wendy Kane to campus twice a month to talk to students. The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts provided a $10,000 grant to fund the project.
“For a lot of students, graduating community college is really an opportunity to rise out of poverty and to really better their financial situation,” said Jennifer Dieringer, a managing attorney for the organization.
“If we’re able to work on their non-academic ... legal issues (and help) them maximize their income, we think that will really clear the path for them to have a successful career,” she said.
Many students may not be aware of all the benefits they’re eligible for or might not think to check if they’ve been placed at the correct benefit level, said Kane, the paralegal who will be routinely visiting GCC. Other students can seek help with civil issues like child custody cases or landlord-tenant disputes.
Kane will present at least four free seminars to students, on topics like maximizing government benefits, landlord-tenant issues, veterans services benefits and unemployment. She’ll also present to staff about what Community Legal Aid can offer students.
Community Legal Aid has helped GCC students for years, sometimes meeting with them in its 55 Federal St. office. Kane believes that by being on campus twice a month, and following up with online referrals, she’ll be able to reach students she hadn’t before.
The legal aid organization will work closely with the GCC Women’s Resource Center. Coordinator Rosemarie Freeland said she first worked with the organization in the mid 1990s, when she was learning her rights as a GCC student and single mother on welfare.
She has referred students to Community Legal Aid over the years, but said that because the original connection had to be made outside of campus, some students did not follow through in seeking out help.
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