Pro Bono Program Announces 2021 Publico Awards

April 15, 2021

In a celebration video shared on April 13, the board of the UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program announced the 2021 recipients of the Pro Bono Publico Awards, including the inaugural Partner/Organization of the Year Award.

This year’s award recipients included:

Sylvia K. Novinsky Award – Sarah Ammons 3L

This year’s award goes to Sarah Ammons, who, since stepping foot on campus, has dedicated herself to serving those who cannot afford legal assistance. Sarah has logged an incredible number of pro bono hours on a wide variety of projects that have truly made a difference. She has participated in more than 30 projects, which includes everything from working in immigration clinics, to calling Legal Aid clients who are eligible for expunctions, to spending her school breaks volunteering in communities across North Carolina.

3L Student of the Year – Nicole Angelica 3L and Jasmine Washington 3L

In this exceptional year, the Pro Bono Program honors two outstanding law students with the 3L of the Year Award. Both students have meaningfully contributed to the law school and community through their pro bono service. Jasmine Washington has dedicated numerous hours to partner organizations including the Good Solar Organization, Democracy NC, and the Earth Law Center. Nicole Angelica has contributed to 32 projects with a variety of organizations including the NC Center on Actual Innocence, Driver’s License Restoration Project, and the Wake County District Attorney’s Office. Not only have these two students contributed many hours of their time to service, but they have also encouraged their fellow students to do so and have made lasting contributions to our community.

Nicole Angelica 3L
Jasmine Washington 3L

2L Student of the Year – Megan Kahane 2L

Despite the numerous demands of 2L year, Megan Kahane has logged over 362 pro bono hours during this unusual school year, and has completed over 488 hours of pro bono service during her time at Carolina Law. Megan has worked on a diverse array of projects such as the Teen Court Assistance Program, the Expunction Project, and the Voter Protection Project. Megan has also dedicated herself this year to leading LSASDV’s Jail Call Project.

1L Student of the Year – Rich Nguyen-Le 1L

Rich Nguyen-Le 1L has worked on pro bono projects spanning a wide variety of practice areas, has logged over 120 pro bono hours this year alone, and has encouraged his fellow students to engage in public service. Rich’s work has included producing a country conditions report to assist Guatemalan witnesses who seek help from the United States, performing cancer rights advocacy and research, and assisting veterans with military discharge upgrades. In addition, he has prioritized his commitment to pro bono work in managing his time and has consistently signed up for attorney projects throughout the year.

Group Pro Bono Project of the Year – Hispanic/Latino Law Students Association

This year, the board recognizes the Hispanic/Latino Law Students Association for their dedication and commitment to pro bono service. This student group has helped fulfill the Pro Bono Program’s two goals of meeting unmet legal needs and fostering a lifelong commitment to pro bono legal work among Carolina Law students. HLLSA has participated in several pro bono projects this year, and one we’d like to celebrate is their Refugee Family Reunification project, where students provided meaningful support to local non-profit Church World Service in compiling I-730 Refugee Relative petitions.

Faculty Member of the Year – Donna Nixon, Clinical Professor of Law & Electronic Resources Librarian

Donna Nixon

This year’s recipient of the Faculty Member of the Year Award played an integral role in Election Protection efforts during the 2020 election. Donna Nixon not only worked multiple shifts of the telephone hotline, answering questions from voters, but she also drove to check on polling places across the state to ensure compliance with NC election rules. This award celebrates Donna Nixon for her help in fulfilling the Pro Bono Program’s two goals of meeting unmet legal needs and fostering a lifelong commitment to pro bono legal work among Carolina Law students.

Partner/Organization of the Year – Land Loss Prevention Project

This year, the board honors the Land Loss Prevention Project for the inaugural award of Partner/Organization of the Year. The Land Loss Prevention Project was founded in 1982 by the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers and the organization’s aim is to curtail the epidemic losses of Black owned land in North Carolina. This organization has not only committed themselves to providing exceptional pro bono service, but they have also become excellent partners to our Pro Bono Program and have allowed many students the opportunity to provide pro bono service. 

Alumnus of the Year – John Noor ’11

The alumni board honors John Noor, a 2011 graduate of UNC School of Law and a litigation associate at Roberts & Stevens. This year, he provided outstanding pro bono service by helping to lead efforts to create a Legal Hotline that provided free legal information and guidance to Western NC residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Recognition

As part of the celebration video, Dean Martin H. Brinkley ’92 addressed students and congratulated the Class of 2021 for reaching 100% participation in pro bono projects.

Graduating students with more than 75 pro bono hours were recognized and student board members were thanked for their efforts this year:

  • Student Director: Chloe Altieri
  • 3L Class Coordinator: Cayla Rodney
  • 2L Class Coordinator: Courtney Goldston
  • 1L Class Coordinator: Sawyer Davis 
  • Alumni Outreach Coordinator: Laurena Grissett 
  • Attorney Projects Coordinator: Julie Leopold
  • Public Relations Coordinator: Jaaz Catterall 
  • Special Projects Coordinators: Nicole Angelica and Mitch Lucas
  • Special Trips Coordinators: Gabrielle James and Sabrina Greer
  • Student Group Projects Coordinator: Sarah Benecky
  • Winter and Spring Breaks Project Coordinator: Hannah Marion
  • Alumni Board Chair: Jared Smith ’16; NC Equal Access to Justice Commission

“Our students have found ways to engage in pro bono work more than ever before and have been meeting the needs of our legal community from their homes,” says Allison Constance ’09, director of pro bono initiatives. “This year proved that the Pro Bono Program is not about the events, in-person clinics, or free pizza lunches—it’s about our commitment to service, concern for our community, and desire to help.”