Our members come from across the country with diverse backgrounds. We have members who have just graduated high school or college, are changing careers, or are looking for ways to give back to their community during retirement. Meet some of our current and past members.
2017-18 JFM Members
Monte Cole is serving his Justice for Montanans term at Montana Legal Services Association in the Indian Law position. Every March, the AmeriCorps members get together for mid-year training and Monte had this to say, "It's too early to say that the Indian Law JFM position has affected my plans for the future, though it has already shifted them towards law school. I am now familiar with legal aid casework and the vital importance of public interest advocacy. The JFM position exposed me to the wide variety of civil-legal issues that low-income Americans confront and has allowed me to consider where my own passions lie within the spectrum of civil legal aid. Poverty Law, Indian Law, Domestic Violence Law, and Civil Rights Litigation are all topics I would like to study thanks to the JFM position. As of last week I began studying for the LSAT, which I never would have considered without the JFM position."
Gregory Hewitt, a 2nd year Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps is currently serving at the Self-Help Law Center in Missoula. "I believe that the greatest strength of the JFM program is that everyone is dedicated towards helping others. When you have hard-working staff that truly believe in the work, we, as members, are able to help accomplish great things and make a tangible difference. I am very satisfied with my AmeriCorps experience because I am able to help others while also gaining professional development and doing something that I enjoy doing. The trifecta of these criteria make this a perfect experience for me."
Nancy Lillrose completed the paralegal certificate coursework with honors and completed two Westlaw certificates in legal research. She wanted a position in which she could use her newfound knowledge. After having worked in real estate for 25 years and volunteering at a local food bank for 13 year, she was ready for something different. Nancy serves at the Self-Help Law Center in Kalispell. "People want/need help and feel very inadequate handling a situation dealing with procedures within the court system. Through what I've learned, I am able to help alleviate their fears and support their decision to represent themselves in court. I will continue to help within the community long after my year of service."
Marissa Rivera is serving with Disability Rights Montana. Both of Marissa's parents are Deaf and she saw firsthand how a lack of access to resources can really impact people. When she orginally looked at serving with Justice for Montanans, she said that she was drawn to the possibility of having real-world experience in a position she felt would exponentially increase her personal growth and hands-on knowledge. She had no legal background and looked forward to being introduced into a legal service environment and working with the community on solutions.
Now she has this to say – "I have been able to learn a variety of new things about law, the criminal justice system, and mental health. Disability Rights Montana allows me to be very involved and they are receptive to my insight and ideas. I'm thinking of entering the law field and serving with JFM has given me a greater understanding of people with mental health needs. In the future, I would like to do more work with the policies that impact people with disabilities."
Since its inception in 2009, Justice for Montanans has hosted many incredible AmeriCorps members who have gone on to do great things. Many of our members continue their education at the end of their term, and JFM alums are currently attending law school at Harvard, Berkley, American University, UC Hastings, the University of Washington and the University of Montana. Other members have gone on to careers in the nonprofit sector and others continue to serve their communities in new and exciting ways. Here is how JFM impacted some of our previous members.
Nolan Harris joined the Justice for Montanans Program and served two terms in the Helena Self Help Law Center after graduating from Montana-Western in 2013. During his two AmeriCorps terms in the Court Help Program, Nolan directly assisted hundreds of Montanans by providing forms, resources, or referrals to other community and state resources; helped administer a pro bono clinic in Helena for the 1st Judicial District Pro Bono Committee; participated in AmeriCorps community events and served Montanan veterans at stand downs; and helped promote program longevity by compiling information for the Court Help Program’s performance measurements. Following AmeriCorps, Nolan utilized the Segal Education Award that is earned after each AmeriCorps term to pursue his Master’s of Public Administration, which he now uses as the Court Help Program Administrator.
Alex Clark graduated from the University of Montana in 2014 with majors in history and philosophy and a minor in Latin American Studies. Having earned the Paul Lauren Human Rights Scholarship in 2013, Alex is fortunate to have found a career path in advancing the cause of equal dignity and rights for everyone through 2 years of service as a Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps Member. As a JFM (2014-2016), Alex coordinated MLSA’s bankruptcy program and then later the Western Montana Bar Association Pro Bono Program.
Alex continues to empower low income Montanans as an MLSA staff member focusing on community outreach and client education. In the future, Alex looks forward to a more perfect justice system shaped through the efforts of a generation of JFMs who carry with them every day the pledge to get things done for America.
Mēghan Flanary graduated from the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne Indiana in 2012 with a major in Sociology, concentrating in Criminology and Social Justice. Not using her degree and wanting to move she started to research the Peace Corps and then happened upon AmeriCorps. She took a position with the Office of Consumer Protection and Victim Services in Helena Montana.
Mēghan was able to help with several state-wide projects while serving 2 terms as an AmeriCorps member, including: Montana's End-of-Life Registry, Address Confidentiality Program, Fatality Review Committee, and the Access to Justice Forum that happens once every 10 years.
While serving, Mēghan participated in Grandstreet theater productions and sang in the Helena Symphony Chorale. She is now the AmeriCorps Coordinator with the Justice for Montanans Program and still enjoys Getting Things Done.
Meet Jenna Eliel, a JFM alum that served with Montana Legal Services!