Professor Keen had a profound impact on the direction I took. He exposed us to social issues like ageism and discrimination in society.

Jen Berger '92

For the last decade, Washington, D.C.-area low-income senior citizens have had a strong advocate in Jennifer Berger ’92. As a supervising attorney at Legal Counsel for the Elderly, an affiliate of AARP, she works to keep seniors in their homes, representing them in court and mediation when they face eviction or illegal rent hikes or need accommodations from their housing providers due to disabilities. She also works proactively to prevent at-risk seniors from becoming homeless by linking them with social services to address their root issues in a holistic way.

“I have the perfect fusion of my interests in my work,” says Berger, who majored in psychology and Spanish at Bucknell and completed a dual postgraduate program in social work and law at the University at Buffalo.

The D.C. Bar Foundation recently awarded her the 2016 Jerrold Scoutt Prize, given annually to an attorney at a nonprofit organization with a track record of providing skilled legal services to the needy. Of the honor, she says, “I particularly appreciate that the award emphasizes compassionate representation of our elderly clients.”

After serving as a home-health aide while in high school on Long Island, Berger’s interest in service to the less fortunate was reinforced at Bucknell. A homelessness practicum she took with Professor Ernest Keen, psychology, was especially influential.

“That got me started in housing issues,” she says. “Professor Keen had a profound impact on the direction I took. He exposed us to social issues like ageism and discrimination in society.”

Berger originally intended to pursue social work, but while working as a case manager, discovered she could make a greater impact on clients by helping them overcome their legal impediments. “I felt I could make more concrete change for my clients in the courtroom,” she says.

For more information about doing pro-bono work for seniors in Washington, D.C., contact Jennifer Berger at jberger@aarp.org.

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