As we recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I recently sat down with our friend Wayne Ho, CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council (“CPC”), to learn more about the community issues the nation’s largest Asian American social service organization is working to address. Since 2021, Proskauer has partnered with the CPC to host several educational workshop series with CPC teens, centering on social justice and academic enrichment. Proskauer employees volunteer as mentors on a regular basis, through programs like those sponsored by the CPC, imparting their expertise beyond the law to inform and inspire students to succeed in college, their careers and other aspects of their lives.
As a board member of Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), a non-profit organization that helps unrepresented litigants in New York City Family Court, I was proud to help organize a recent panel discussion addressing race and poverty in the New York State Family Court. Moderated by LIFT Executive Director Cathy Cramer, the panelists included the Honorable Edwina Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge; former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; and Proskauer Pro Bono Partner, Bill Silverman. Secretary Johnson is responsible for a recent report on institutional racism in the New York State Court System, where he characterized certain courts, including the Family Court, as providing a “second class system of justice for people of color in New York State.” Bill Silverman co-authored a recent report on behalf of the New York City Bar Association and the Fund for Modern Courts which addressed the impact of COVID-19 on the New York City Family Court and how the crisis laid bare longstanding inequities. Judge Mendelson is responsible for the Court’s justice initiatives.
On March 15, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s public schools would close in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, more than 1,700 schools and over one million students and their families shifted to remote-learning curriculums. Since then, all NYC public schools have closed for the remainder of the academic year. For some families, the shift has been manageable, but for many others, it’s impractical. Without the technology needed for remote-learning, thousands of students remain isolated from their teachers and classmates. Recent reporting states that roughly 16% of NYC students lack daily communication with their schools. The Department of Education has committed to providing internet-connected tablets to families in need, a number that by late-April surpassed more than 70,000 students.
To support families in these difficult times, many local non-profit organizations have refocused their efforts to track students’ needs and provide the necessary resources. Read Ahead, one of Proskauer’s longtime non-profit partners, is one such organization. For nearly 30 years, Read Ahead (formerly Everyone Wins! New York) has connected adult reading mentors with children in public elementary schools once per week during their lunch hours. As a member of their Junior Board, I am pleased to share a few of their updates.
I vividly remember waiting impatiently for my “Fresh Air Fund Sister” to arrive that first summer. It was the summer of 1973. As a young child, it was impossible for me to imagine the girl who would be spending two weeks with us at our home in suburban New Jersey. We were told that she lived in Manhattan, and her name was Judy. She was three years older than I. Would she be taller than I was? Since she was a city girl, I was sure she would be wiser. I recall being more than a bit apprehensive, with butterflies in my stomach. I also couldn’t imagine that she wanted to spend two weeks out of her own magical city. My town was a place where the mundane such as eating ice cream, seeing fireworks for the 4th of July and catching fireflies were the most memorable highlights of my suburban summers.
It turns out, she wanted that too. During that summer, and many summers after that, she joined my family. Our families kept in touch during the school year, we got to know Judy’s mother, and eventually Judy began spending winter break with us as well. Judy became a member of my family, and the experience of having an older sister from a different background and with a nearly opposite world view was one of the most impactful experiences of my life. It kindled within me a desire to learn about people. It taught me that a generous spirit is a gift to the giver even more than the receiver, and that no matter what our differences are, it is possible to take a deep dive and find a commonality that was hard to imagine could exist.
There are more than one million students enrolled in New York City public schools, making it the largest school system in the United States. Yet each student enrolled is unique and enters school each day with varying needs. Thus, there is a general consensus that providing targeted and individualized support to students is crucial to their academic success. Furthermore, implementing this support early in their education can impact students during critical stages in their development and benefit their academic performance for years to come.
Since 2015, I have served on the junior board for Read Ahead, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that New York City elementary school students have the skills they need for academic and life-long success. Read Ahead’s program is centered on one-on-one lunchtime reading-based mentoring sessions between students and volunteer mentors. Students are recommended by their teachers or school staff to participate in the program because they are reading below grade level, English Language Learners, or in need of social or emotional support to boost their self-confidence, their classroom performance, or their interest in reading.
Proskauer is a proud Corporate Member of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. As an annual supporter, the Firm regularly shares the experience of the Memorial and Museum with its employees, clients, summer associates and guests from around the world. In recognizing the 17th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11…
On a daily basis we are inundated with news and information from all over the world. My morning paper, evening news, and daily smartphone alerts are primarily focused on the United States’ political climate, natural disasters, violence, and other harrowing stories of people in need. Our newsfeed can seem to create a barrier between us and those we could help. I often feel it seems that those most in need are furthest from our reach. Yet it is important to remember how much work there is to be done right outside our own doors.
Prior to joining the Corporate Social Responsibility team at Proskauer this spring, I spent three years working in fundraising and development at Citymeals on Wheels. While the projects I worked on varied, I always took pride in knowing that my work supported Citymeals’ mission of providing nutritious meals to homebound seniors in need. People are often surprised by the scale of Citymeals’ work. The organization delivers to more than 18,000 elderly New Yorkers, resulting in over 2 million meals every year. And while these numbers are truly staggering, Citymeals’ recipients only account for a small percentage of New Yorkers who face the growing struggles of food insecurity.
Most environmental organizations are primarily interested in undisturbed landscapes and waters, naturally occurring flora and fauna, and other non-urban natural resources. Proskauer has long been involved with an exceptional group called GrowNYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the environmental quality of New York City.
Founded in 1970 after the first Earth Day by Mayor John V. Lindsay, it was initially called the Mayor’s Council on the Environment (formed the same year as the Federal Council on Environmental Quality). GrowNYC, as it is now called, has grown to become a leading driver of environmental programs aimed at New York City residents and visitors.