By Kimberly M. Johnson

It’s hard, sometimes, to give back to the community. Doubts creep into your mind (and your wallet). “Did he really get those items?” “Is she appreciative?”  “Where is the money going?”  I walked that tightrope a time or two when I donated clothes, penned a check or provided in-kind support. Yet, I continue to walk that tightrope because giving back is the right thing to do.

The right thing to do can be demonstrated in a legal setting. When I worked as a paralegal in a public defender’s office, I designed an internship for undergrads (Social work majors, English majors, math majors) not on the pre-law track, but interested in criminal law. The senior administration, attorneys and professors at the local colleges viewed the concept as a win-win.  It helped that one of the professors was a former Family Court judge.  Paralegals and admin staff pitched in to train the interns to succeed in and out of the courtrooms.

As a paralegal working at a community college, I encourage you to spend time with local elementary students through the NCBA Foundation’s Lawyers 4 Literacy (L4L) program.  Simply put, it works like this:  You meet with two to four students at one of the selected schools during lunch. For 30 minutes, they read and you listen. You provide feedback.  Sounds familiar? You can expand this opportunity and organize a book drive. A book drive is the vehicle my co-workers used to participate in the program. Their generosity was rewarded with a certificate of appreciation.  Giving back to the community can take many forms: a book drive, collect funds for a worthwhile cause or even sharing your talents for three hours. No matter the cause, do it — because it is the right thing to do.

For more information on the Lawyers 4 Literacy program, email Director of Law-Related Education Diane Wright or call her at (919) 657-1588; dwright@ncbar.org.

Kimberly M. Johnson is a paralegal at Wake Technical Community College in the Office of General Counsel.  Kimberly has a MA in Human Resources Management from Webster University in Columbia, S.C., a BA in history from Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. and a paralegal certificate from Midlands Technical College in Columbia, S.C.  Kimberly previously worked in a public defender’s office and as a newspaper reporter.