Along the state’s “corridor of shame” is Allendale County, less than 100 miles from Columbia, but a world away when it comes to resources. The corridor of shame refers to the I-95 corridor of South Carolina, where some of the nation’s poorest counties lie. A state of emergency has been declared over their education system, and rates of violent crimes, teen pregnancy and unemployment climb. It’s a community known for its negative attention. But where others see loss, Paula Birch Billingsley sees hope.
The 2015 alumna says it was during her time at South Carolina Law, learning from professors like Derek Black and Libba Patterson, says that her eyes and heart were opened to what a law degree could mean for the place she once called home.
She returned to Allendale with goals to advocate for the school system specifically. She found a group of like-minded people and the Allendale Fairfax Education Foundation was formed.
“It’s great: male, female, black, white, ages 18 to 80. We have parents, teachers, social workers, and more. They almost all work, have families, and do this 100 percent volunteer,” says Billingsley, the president and chair of the foundation
She says they operate like a “booster club for academics,” raising money for everything from school supplies and community events to a mentoring program and chess team. But she wanted to do more. She turned to Pro Bono Program director Pam Robinson for help on their latest project: Change for Change.