College of Law > About > Centers & Institutes > Center for Public Interest Law > Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative > Service Awards

DePaul Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative Service Awards

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​DePaul Law students completed 3,800 hours of service during the 2019-2020 academic year by participating in a variety of service opportunities including:

  • Assisting the homeless with expunging and sealing of criminal records and obtaining crucial state IDs through DePaul’s Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP)

  • Preparing advanced directives for low-income seniors 

  • Virtually providing legal help to low income individuals without attorneys through Illinois Free Legal Answers

  • Helping victims of domestic violence obtain emergency orders of protection 

  • Assisting immigrants with petitions for asylum and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

  • Teaching constitutional law to students in Chicago Public Schools

  • Serving food to low income seniors and people experiencing homelessness

  • Playing games and doing crafts with kids at a youth center during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

  • Sorting food and performed outreach for a food pantry

  • Setting up and executing a Valentine’s Day party at a domestic violence shelter

  • Cleaning, organizing and painting schools, senior centers and homeless shelters in the Chicagoland area 

2020 Student Service Award Recipients 

The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (PBCSI) presents four service awards annually to students who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to service during law school. 

Named in honor of one of the law school’s most outstanding alumni, the Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award is awarded to graduating third and fourth year students who have completed 200 or more hours of volunteer service during their time at DePaul and who best exemplify the Vincentian commitment to service and social justice.

  • Alexandra Carl
  • De'ja Fox
  • Kiran Gupta
  • Allison Gutnik
  • Leslie Hill
  • Ezra Lintner
  • Madison May
  • Haley Mulherin
  • Olivia Ness
  • Nike Roman
  • Elizabeth Sawyer
  • Sadaf Siddiqui
  • Kelsey Sloop
  • Christian Soukar
  • Shawn Verghese


Awarded to students completing 200 hours of volunteer work during their time at DePaul

  • Amy Foster-Gimbel
  • Njeri Williams

Awarded to students completing 100 hours of volunteer work during their time at DePaul

  • Gabriella Illa
  • Bryanna Jenkins
  • Claire Lopez-Jauffret
  • Kanishk Patel
  • Kailyn Reese
  • Monica Saavedra
  • Lydia Scodro
  • Tricia Young

Awarded to students completing 50 hours of volunteer work during their time at DePaul

  • Farzana Ahmed
  • Hannah Blackwell
  • Nicholas Cirino
  • Avneet Chawla
  • Catherine Coghlan
  • Lauren Kelley
  • MeShellai McWilliams
  • Vaida Plesa
  • Edlira Shero
  • Stephanie Snow
  • Lauryn Woodward

2020 Alumni Service Award Recipient

PBCSI also honors a DePaul alumna/us who, through years of service, has demonstrated an ongoing and deep commitment to pro bono legal services for the poor and disadvantaged and has inspired others to do the same. 

Kristi Nelson (JD 1995)
Kristi Nelson (JD 1995)

Kristi Nelson is a commercial litigation partner at Gair Eberhard Nelson Dedinas Ltd. She has dedicated a significant portion of her legal practice to pro bono work over the course of her 20+ years of practicing law. Highlights include:

  • ​​​​Representing numerous women, children and families in immigration proceedings through the National Immigrant Justice Center, including: ​​​
  1. ​​​​Winning asylum for a woman from Togo who feared persecution on account of her gender, because her family tried to force her to undergo female genital mutilation.
  2. ​​​​​​Winning asylum for a boy from Somalia based on his fear of being forced to join the Al Shabab terrorist group or be killed if he returned to Somali.
  3. Obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for a girl from Guinea whose parents forced her to marry into a polygamous marriage as a young child.
  4. Obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for two orphaned children from Mexico after their father murdered their mother and then killed himself—she then assisted their grandparents with obtaining immigration relief to take care of the kids.
  5. Obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for a boy from Kenya.  The case took over three years due to changes in the law.  

  • ​​Serving as a volunteer attorney for over five years at an elementary school in the Little Village neighborhood through the Chicago Bar Association’s Lawyers in the Classroom program.​
  • Traveling to a boarding school in Somaliland to volunteer to teach a one-week seminar on U.S. Constitutional Law to students in grades 9-12.  
  • Traveling to Dilley, Texas for one week to provide pro bono representation of detained mothers and children to prepare them for their credible fear interviews and immigration court proceedings. 
  • Taking on countless other pro bono matters throughout her career, serving as court-appointed guardian ad litem for minors in guardianship proceedings, representing prisoners in prisoner rights cases, representing tenants in eviction proceedings, among others.
  • Serving as a long-time board member of Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and currently serving on the organization’s Advisory Board.
Kristi’s outstanding commitment to service truly embodies DePaul’s Vincentian values and is an inspiration to the College of Law community. ​