Volunteer Spotlight: Rebekah Ent

April 29, 2024

by Sean Valentin, CARPLS Communications Intern

Transitioning from college to the professional world often leads individuals down unexpected paths. For some, like Rebekah Ent, the journey takes an unforeseen turn toward the realm of law and advocacy. 

Before delving into the legal arena, she spent nearly six years in the cybersecurity industry in Washington, DC. It was during this time that her interactions with internal and external legal teams sparked a newfound interest in pursuing a law degree. Now, as a student at Chicago-Kent College of Law, her journey has taken yet another unanticipated but deeply rewarding turn through volunteer work with CARPLS.

Rebekah volunteers on the IL-AFLAN hotline, which is one of the specialty hotlines that CARPLS manages. The Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network helps low and moderate-income veterans and their families with legal needs like housing, family, and consumer law issues. As well as VA benefits, appeals, and discharge upgrades. Veterans or family members can call the IL-AFLAN hotline and talk to a volunteer like Rebekah or a CARPLS staff attorney and receive free legal advice.  

Rebekah first heard about CARPLS through Kent’s Veterans Law Society. She was very excited to join because of her partner, who is a veteran. “Coming to law school, I always knew I would like to help veterans with some of the very complex and difficult legal issues that they face, not only with veterans benefits and discharge upgrades and veteran-related issues, but just general legal issues that veterans face.” 

Volunteering with CARPLS has been an eye-opening and fulfilling experience, she said, allowing Rebekah to gain practical legal knowledge while making a tangible difference in the lives of veterans, all while still being a 1L. Each call presents a unique challenge, from navigating tax and land use disputes to assisting with veterans’ benefits and discharge upgrades. 

“Coming into law school, there are so many things you can do with a law degree, which makes it exciting but also a little daunting. There’s such a need for, specifically, veterans to get access to legal aid, and they face such difficult issues that if you’re not versed in veteran law, it’s very hard to answer some of those questions as a lawyer. Working with IL-AFLAN and on the hotline has definitely influenced where I think I want to go with my law degree.”

The impact of our work extends far beyond legal resolutions. The gratitude expressed by clients serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of accessible legal aid. Every interaction reinforces the significance of organizations like CARPLS in bridging the gap between legal expertise and those in need. 

One of our IL-AFLAN clients called the hotline recently and Rebekah helped them with their issue. 

“They owned a property in rural Illinois for years. The client called us because their property had been wrongly assessed as a farm instead of a residential property, and because of the farm status, they had been facing a higher tax rate on the property. It was a really interesting issue combining veterans’ tax exemptions on owning real property, and the classification of property as a residential property versus a farm. We ended up being able to provide them with the necessary documentation needed to reverse the decision, essentially. It was a very roundabout and difficult problem, but with the help of the rest of the IL-AFLAN team, we were able to get their taxes lowered. A very interesting case, one that I did not have much experience with, but it just goes to show there are so many issues that veteran’s face.” 

Afterward, the client reached out and said of Rebekah, “She really knew what she was doing. She helped me navigate the mechanics of what to do. Really motivated me. There really isn’t another organization like it. If you guys wouldn’t have existed, I’d be in a real pickle.“ 

Rebekah said it’s great to hear feedback like that from clients who appreciate the work and we’re able to help them in a positive way. “I think every phone call that I take really reminds me of the importance of what IL-AFLAN does. Just being able to help any veteran with such interesting and unfortunate problems that they face and then see it actually get resolved in favor of this is super satisfying.”

To those considering volunteering with CARPLS, Rebekah says that her experience has been amazing and believes that those on the fence about it should do it. 

“The resources that IL-AFLAN has to support the volunteers is really awesome. It makes my job much easier and allows me to learn a lot of new cool things in the process. I’ve never felt like I can’t answer questions or I’m not equipped to handle these calls, even as a 1L who doesn’t know much at all. I would say for any person that’s looking to give back to the community, and especially the veteran community, IL-AFLAN definitely supports all our volunteers and has made it amazing for students like us at Chicago-Kent, to be able to, learn a lot, and give back to a really great cause in the process as we begin our legal careers.”

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