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Bar Association lends a hand to students

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Members of the Nassau County Bar Association have been mentoring students at eight schools across Nassau County for the past 24 years, teaching them about a wide array of topics and offering a role model where one is needed.

Participants recently bid farewell to one of its coordinator’s, Laura Papaleo, giving her flowers to recognize her work overseeing the program at Woodland Middle School. Papaleo will be leaving Woodland, where she has worked for 19 years as a guidance counselor, to become a principal at Eastern Suffolk BOCES.

Guidance counselor’s like Papaleo chose students to participate in the program, which is run at three schools in Hempstead, two in East Meadow, one in Westbury, one in Jericho, one in Uniondale and with two coming to Great Neck next year.

Over 90 attorneys, judges, and Bar Association staff members participate in a one-on-one mentorship with middle and elementary school students.

“It offers youngsters a chance to bond with an adult with nothing to do with math or science, but more to do with having a conversational relationship with a mentor,” said Alan Hodish, the founder and chairman of the program. “The topic could be Beyonce, current events, athletics — whatever it is where there is a commonality between the two.”

Hodish is an active member of the Nassau County Bar Association and a former teacher from the Hempstead School District, teaching elementary school and coaching football and lacrosse from 1978 to 1989.

“I just thought it would be a great idea to get the Bar Association involved with the Hempstead School District,” he said. While he started it to help the students, he said, “We get probably more, if not as much, as the kids do out of the program. There are no fees, no clients. It’s just a selfless thing we do to help kids that could use a mentor in their life.”

The program runs bi-weekly for 40-minute early-morning sessions from October through May. It culminates with a luncheon at the Nassau County Bar Association on May 24, where students come “dressed to the nines” for “a chance to break bread with their mentor and get recognized for their involvement in the program,” Hodish said.