Philadelphia VIP recognizes Temple’s ATLAS Program

Philadelphia VIP has named Temple’s ATLAS Program the April 2013
Volunteer of the Month for its law students’ commitment to
providing language access to VIP clients.

For the past seven years, students at Temple University Beasley
School of Law have offered to translate for Philadelphia VIP
clients who are unable to communicate in English. The partnership
between VIP and Temple law students was formalized last fall
through the creation of the ATLAS Program.

Founded by law student Rachel Eisenberg and former VIP paralegal
Michael Wooten, ATLAS, which stands for “Advocacy Through Language
Access Services,” provides bi-lingual law students the opportunity
to serve low-income Philadelphians by assisting with
interpretation, translation, and legal writing in multiple
languages, including Russian, Tagalog, French, Spanish, and

ATLAS is now a sub-committee of the Temple Law Student Public
Interest Network, and keeps a database of students who are fluent
in a language beside English. When a client cannot communicate with
his or her attorney in English, an ATLAS student will work directly
with an experienced attorney to advocate for the client in the
legal matter or case. Students like Katie Cooper and Denise
Negron-Bennett have helped women in domestic violence cases protect
their families and their homes. Other students have supported
clients with a range of legal issues, including family law matters,
housing matters, driver’s license procedures, and other legal

Both Katie and Denise cited awareness of the vulnerability
experienced by non-English speaking community members when
navigating the legal process. For Katie, this awareness developed
when she encountered personal emergencies while traveling abroad.
For Denise, her experiences in the courts, working with underserved
populations, and at her childrens’ schools underscored the

Maureen Olives, Director of Public Interest Programs at Temple
Law, believes that the students in the ATLAS program “solve a
critical need because language access is essential for guaranteeing
justice for the clients VIP serves. Our students accept the
obligation all lawyers have to provide pro bono service while they
are still in school. Our students understand that a client with
limited English proficiency deserves to be heard.”

Mariana Fernández, VIP Pro Bono Case Manager, says, “ATLAS is a
great program that has allowed our volunteers and clients to
communicate with each other in a meaningful way. This program
promotes our mission to provide equal justice for all. We are
delighted to have Temple Law students provide assistance on such an
emergency basis thus allowing language access for both our
volunteers and our clients.”