If you’re part of the very small portion of the world that is not familiar with the HBO television series and award-winning book series, Game of Thrones, than you probably don’t know much about our most famous VISTA. Before he became a worldwide phenomenon for writing his Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin was an AmeriCorps VISTA at LAF in the 1970’s.
After graduating with a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University, GRRM began his VISTA service at LAF’s downtown office in Chicago. At the time LAF was still known as the Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation and had neighborhood offices throughout Chicago and Cook County. GRRM spent two years at CCLAF as the Director of Communications and Education, and his job duties were very similar to what our VISTA External Relations Coordinator, Karianna Simpkins, does today, writing press releases and editing the newsletter.
Now GRRM is an award-winning American novelist and short story writer who resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is currently in the process of writing The Winds of Winter, the sixth book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and working as a co-executive producer of Game of Thrones.
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the VISTA program we wanted to thank George R. R. Martin for his service. LAF is proud to call you one of our own!
(Above picture can be found on GRRM’s website.)
Hannah Shireman, originally from the cornfields of Indiana, started her year of service at LAF in August of 2014. A lot of her friends have done different AmeriCorps programs and she thought it would be a fun experience after graduating from Indiana University. Hannah has a degree in Sociology, Political and Civic Engagement, and Criminal Justice. She is 23 years old and enjoys reading, running, and hanging out with her adorable dog Harvey in her free time.
Hannah is the VISTA Outreach Coordinator in the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights
Practice Group at LAF. She has prior experience in combatting human trafficking through internships, and thought the position at LAF would give her a different kind of knowledge on an issue she was already passionate about. Hannah explains that she wants to change the way people think about human trafficking. “I want to change the misconception that human trafficking only applies to sex trafficking; labor trafficking is just as prominent of an issue.” To accomplish this goal, she attends task force meetings with various legal service agencies, non-profits, law enforcements, and academic groups from all over the state . In the summer, Hannah will get go to different communities across Illinois and teach them about the danger of human trafficking in the United States.
Hannah would like to spend this year preparing to take the GRE exam so she can go to grad school and continue her work in the non-profit world. She also has dreams of one day returning to Copenhagen and living happily ever after with Harvey. Keep up the awesome work, Hannah!
Brittany Triggs, 24, began her year of service at LAF in August of 2014. With a degree in International Studies and Spanish (University of Evansville), Brittany was the perfect fit for the position of VISTA Outreach Coordinator in the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights practice group at LAF. She has always had a passion for service oriented work and before coming to LAF she taught children at a bilingual school in Honduras. In her spare time, Brittany likes to dance and read, she also has a bit of a travel bug.
Being a part of the immigration project gives her the opportunity to continue connecting with people all over the world while learning about immigration law. Her wide range of tasks includes helping clients receive education access, providing financial aid guidance for students without green cards, working with counselors, making presentations, conducting job readiness training, and connecting individuals with the resources they need to succeed. While at LAF Brittany would like to continue to develop her professional network and take advantage of living in the wonderful city of Chicago. In the future Brittany would like to continue studying immigrant communities and one day pursue a Masters degree that allows her to use these experiences as research.
One of the most gratifying things for Brittany is seeing her hard work come to life when an individual receives their green card and a world of possibilities open up for them. Keep up the great work, Brittany!
“As a law student in Illinois, if you are looking to work in legal aid, you know LAF is where you want to be.” said Erin Novak, 26 year old VISTA Attorney. Erin is a Chicago native and started her year of service in August of 2014 in the Public Benefits practice group. The VISTA program was an easy choice for Erin, she never got the opportunity to intern for LAF in college like she wanted to and has always had a passion for service oriented work. When Erin is not dealing with client intake or conducting outreach, she spends her time dancing, cooking, cleaning, and working out. Keeping her social relationships with friends and co-workers is still a priority to her despite all of the hard work she puts in everyday at LAF.
Erin shared with me a few stories where she felt especially appreciated for the work she is able to be a part of. The gratitude of the clients after helping them gain benefits or even just pointing them in the right direction, makes it all worth it. She told me about a specific food stamp case where she helped a mother get the proper benefits for her and her daughter. Having Erin there to handle the logistics made the process a lot less stressful for the client and it’s these little things that our Attorneys are able to do that make a world of difference in a client’s life.
Erin referred to herself as a “wandering soul” and although she is not sure where her career is going to take her, she knows that she wants to make a difference in the lives of troubled youth and people in poverty. She is hoping this year at LAF will help her determine the path to find happiness in her career, as well as establish lifelong friendships and connections.
You rock, Erin!
Hailing from DePaul University College of Law, Camille “Cami” Taylor is a 29 year old VISTA Attorney in the Children’s and Families Practice Group at LAF. Cami is originally from Littleton, Colorado and moved to Chicago in 2010 for law school, where she received her Juris Doctor degree. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, singing, dancing, and hanging out with her friends.
She came to LAF with a desire to learn more about public interest law, and figured working for the largest provider of free legal aid in Cook County would be the perfect place to start. She began her VISTA term in August and is hoping her year of service with LAF will enable her to gain the legal skills needed to further her career in public interest law.
Cami performs an array of tasks at LAF, from answering calls and e-mails from clients to leading community outreach efforts and working the juvenile expungement help desk twice a week. She also helps to plan juvenile expungement clinics for pro bono volunteers with LAF, and makes community presentations on the importance of juvenile justice. Although it can sometimes be stressful, seeing the immense appreciation of clients makes it all worth it for Cami. “My clients often come to me feeling frustrated and like they have hit a brick wall, but something as simple as handing them the proper form to fill out means so much to them.”
In the future, Cami would like to work with troubled youth and show them a path for a brighter future. She believes that with the guidance of her supervisor and other attorneys here at LAF, she will gain the legal skills necessary to help her have a successful and rewarding career.