Veterans Advocacy Legal Organization Receives UNC Public Service Award for Helping Service Members

April 25, 2020

For the third year in a row, a Carolina Law student group is recognized with the Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award.

VALOR students with Tod Leaven ’10, center, in Asheville. From left: Colin Russell 1L (2021 Co-Treasurer); Miranda Goot 3L; Alex Rutgers 3L; Olivia Koontz 3L (2021 Pro Bono Coordinator, 2020 co-VP and Communications); Isabelle Stevens 2L (2020/2021 President); John Fallon 2L (Community Outreach Coordinator); Tod Leaven ’10, (Supervising Attorney); Kisha Patel 3L; Josh Smith 3L; Laura Medlin 3L; Matt Yelverton 3L (2020 co-VP); Adam Renkiewicz 3L (2020 Pro Bono Coordinator). Photo by Connor Scharff 1L.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recognized the Veterans Advocacy Legal Organization (VALOR) for the group’s work to provide pro bono legal assistance to former military service members.

VALOR President Isabelle Stevens 2L accepted the award during an April 24 Public Service Awards presentation hosted online by the Carolina Center for Public Service. Eleven individuals and one organization received awards.

VALOR, a student organization within UNC School of Law, was one of six recipients of the Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award, which recognizes students, staff and faculty for exemplary public service efforts. VALOR was recognized for its spring break pro bono trip, held just days before the COVID-19 outbreak shut down school events. Many homeless veterans with service-related health issues who seek medical care and treatment are not fully supported due to benefit restrictions and discharge characterizations. Members of VALOR spent time over their spring break completing the intake process for service members in Asheville, N.C. They gathered legal information to help upgrade the veterans’ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits—working to form an active network of service members, advocates and resources.

Students organized a training session before the trip with Professor John Brooker ’03 and Tod Leaven ’10, who supervised the law students during the project. In Asheville, VALOR students had the opportunity to meet and network with alumni and attorneys working in western North Carolina.

VALOR students with Professor John Brooker ’03. Photo by Josh Smith 3L

See photos from the project on VALOR’s Facebook page.

The diverse projects conducted by this year’s public service award recipients include efforts to overcome socio-economic barriers to mental health services, establishment of a service-learning internship, fundraising for cancer research, development of inclusive history workshops for K-12 teachers and analysis of intersectional feminism in politically-engaged research.

This is the third year in a row that a law student group has won this award. In 2019, the Christian Legal Society was selected, and Law Students Against Sexual and Domestic Violence was selected in 2018.

Learn more about the Carolina Center for Public Service and the awards.