Mentors, supporters celebrate 2015 Judicial Youth Corps graduates

Issue September 2015 By Jason M. Scally

The 2015 Supreme Judicial Court Judicial Youth Corps program drew to a close on Aug. 13, when 41 high school students from Boston, Worcester and Springfield took part in JYC Appreciation Day at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston.

The JYC program gives urban high school students an opportunity to experience the judicial system and learn about the law through educational sessions and hands-on internships in the courts from May through July each year. The SJC first established the summer program in Boston in 1991. The Massachusetts Bar Association has partnered with the SJC since 2007 to expand the program to Worcester. For the second year in a row, the MBA also partnered with Western New England University School of Law to bring the JYC program to Springfield.

Following a group lunch and a mock trial program, the students joined family, friends and mentors for the graduation ceremony. Retired SJC Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland, who has been a part of the JYC program since its inception, welcomed the students and served as master of ceremonies for the graduation program.

JYC graduates introduced themselves from the audience and thanked their mentors, many of whom were on hand for the ceremony. A handful of students representing each of the three programs also took to the podium to share more detailed memories about their internship experiences. (See below for some additional feedback from the Worcester students.)

MBA President Robert W. Harnais relayed the MBA's proud support of this worthwhile program. Speaking to the students directly, he said they were fortunate to get hands-on courtroom experience through their JYC internships. Harnais recalled how his own similar, although less formalized, early exposure to the courts as a "courtroom groupie" and volunteer helped shape his desire to become a lawyer.

Harnais thanked the students' families and volunteers for their support, especially those involved in the MBA-affiliated programs, such as James Rosseel, the Worcester teacher and attorney who has run the Worcester program for the past nine years, and Sam Charon, the assistant director and pro bono coordinator at Western New England University School of Law, who again served as the attorney-coach of the Springfield program. He also recognized the program's sponsors, including the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, the primary sponsor of the Worcester program and MBF President Robert J. Ambrogi, who followed Harnais as speaker and shared his own congratulatory sentiments.

Student reflections from the Judicial Youth Corps

The thing I liked the most about my internship was …

"Helping the scared people get some kind of comfort when they came back from court while I handed them a copy of their restraining/no harassment order."

"Watching all the activity in a courtroom when it was in session … and watching an actual trial."

"Taking a tour of the other courts -- it was cool to see how the different courts functioned."

"A defense attorney's cross-examination -- he kept asking questions that the witness did not know the answers to."

"I really enjoyed observing an armed robber case and the closing arguments of the attorneys."

One of the more interesting things I recall from my internship is …

"Mediations with one mediation specialist are very calming; mediations with another mediation specialist are very energetic. It is interesting to see their different styles."

"We witnessed people asking for a change of counsel. We had never seen this happen before but we saw so many in the past week."

"Watching a woman walk into the clerk's office with a man and then calling out: 'I have a restraining order against this man!'"

"People watching … something different every day."

One of the funniest things that I witnessed during my internship …

"A man came to the counter and he was wearing a bathing suit."

"It's all fun and games until you go to D.O.R."

"We encountered people who would ask the workers to speed up their divorce case because their partner was driving 'em crazy."