Each fall, new law school students arrive at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law prepared to buckle down and learn how to think, research, and write like lawyers.
This year, they also got their hands dirty with a public service project to assemble bicycles to donate to a local Little Rock charity, Recycle Bikes for Kids.
Altogether, the students built 23 bicycles on Aug. 13, while learning about teamwork and the expectation of lawyers to give back to their communities.
“This was a very worthwhile community project,” said Bowen Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz. “Thanks to the volunteer efforts of Bowen students, faculty, and staff, we were able to complete this project at no cost to the law school. Better yet, we were able to provide an invaluable experience for our students and exemplify Bowen’s public service mission.”
Professor Lynn Foster, who suggested the project, emphasized the fact that the project allowed students to build the teamwork skills that Arkansas lawyers have said are critical to be successful in law, while also providing a public service.
“Bowen is a law school committed to public service, and we want to make sure our students graduate with critical teamwork skills,” Foster said. “This exercise was the students’ first of many at Bowen that touches on both areas.”
Recycle Bikes for Kids is a grassroots Little Rock charity committed to rescuing abandoned, discarded, or donated bicycles, giving them new life, and donating them to neighborhood children who might otherwise be unable to afford a bicycle.
The shop has a small display space, where any child can come select a bicycle. In addition, the organization provides used parts and a workspace to repair bicycles.
Bowen second-year student Dakotah Thompson, who volunteers with the charity, helped arrange the project by gathering the bicycle parts and bringing them to Bowen.
He then spent his last few weeks of summer break in the law school basement cleaning and organizing the bike parts, making sure each group received a set of bike parts capable of being assembled.
“We didn’t want any one group to have more to do than another, and we didn’t want students to feel like they’d enrolled in a trade school,” Thompson said.
The project involved every department at Bowen. Thompson mentioned the Facilities Management staff, who gave him room to work, helped with tools, and provided a place to store the supplies and, later, the finished bikes. Members of the faculty and staff also loaned the tools necessary for each group to complete the project.
On the day of the event, Thompson and Bowen second-year student Camille Neeman arranged the bike parts and tools on tarps in the designated classrooms and spent the afternoon supervising and assisting the groups as needed.
“It was nice to build something for a nonprofit that benefits children,” said Megan Douglas, a first-year Bowen law student. “Each of us could contribute something, even though some of us had more experience in assembling bicycles, and we had the chance to learn more about each other.”