Students to provide legal assistance to New Orleans hurricane victims

October 05, 2007

For most law students, winter break conjures up thoughts of family gatherings, fun nights with friends and a well-deserved mental break from the rigors of law school. Not so for Melissa Tanguay, a second-year law student at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law, who plans to spend a week in New Orleans over winter break providing legal assistance to hurricane victims through the Student Hurricane Network.

The Student Hurricane Network, or SHN, online, is a national association facilitating law students to provide legal assistance to hurricane victims in the Gulf Region. Over their summer, winter and spring breaks, law students assist public interest attorneys in catching up with massive caseloads and proactively addressing emergent needs in areas affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana and Mississippi.

"I first learned of the Student Hurricane Network when I led a group of seven law students to New Orleans to rehab homes with Habitat for Humanity in March 2007," explained Tanguay. "It was tough work, but we had such a rewarding spring break serving the thousands of people still living the effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita that I have been determined to return to the Bayou ever since. However, this time I would like to address a different need of hurricane victims and offer the legal skills of myself and my classmates."

Tanguay became a SHN liaison this past summer so that Penn State Dickinson could join the dozens of law schools and thousands of law students who have reached out to the Gulf Region over the past two years with SHN. Student groups recruit students, raise funds and organize the logistics of the trips. SHN then matches the student volunteers to organizations serving causes such as legal aid, criminal justice, civil rights, legislative advocacy, immigration, fair housing, capital punishment and juvenile justice.

Tanguay and fellow law student Andrea Miller are coordinating the alternative winter break trip for 10 law students from Penn State Dickinson to work in New Orleans from Jan. 6 to 12. They are currently organizing travel, transportation, lodging and meals, as well as soliciting funding and recruiting students for the week. With help from Penn State Dickinson's Public Interest Office, the Law School community, and alumni and friends, the pair hopes to raise $3,000 to $5,000 to help defer costs of the trip for student participants.

SHN also welcomes practicing attorneys to volunteer in New Orleans through the Emergency Pro Bono Civil Legal Assistance Rule, which was recently renewed by the Supreme Court of Louisiana to allow non-admitted attorneys to provide limited civil legal services to hurricane victims in Louisiana. Tanguay said Alumni are welcome to participate in the trip by volunteering for SHN. All practicing attorneys are asked to arrange for their own travel and lodging.

People interested in joining the alternative winter break to New Orleans should contact Melissa Tanguay at or Andrea Miller at via e-mail. To make a donation to help cover the costs of the trip for participating students, contact Bruce Rosengrant in the Development Office at (814) 863-3396 or via e-mail.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 22, 2015