For me, sharing my law school journey story with more than 40 high school freshmen and sophomores helped remind me of just how far I have come since my own high school experience.
The Open the Doors to Justice program, created The Honorable Ana Espana, brought the Castle High School Students to the South Bay Court House Oct. 25 to explore careers in the legal field.
“We got the call to be a part of the mock trial program from Judge Espana in June,” Princlipal Tom Glover said.
Glover said they choose ninth and tenth graders because the high school’s mission is to prepare students for college, and getting younger students involved gives them a chance to see what career opportunities there are at the start of high school.
“I really wanted something for the kids in the South Bay,” Judge Espana said. Espana herself is a product of the area and wants to give back to her community.
Along with Espana, students heard from Commissioner Terrie E. Roberts, District Attorneys, Public Defenders, and TJSL students Francisco Batar (3L), Veronica Carrillo (3L), Samantha Morales (3L) and Michelle Vescio Evenson (2L), as well as others. The messages were clear: stay in school, respect yourself, go to college, and pay attention.
“I defend people who are much like you,” Public Defender Shontee Hobson (TJSL Alumni) said. She shared stories about some of the young men and women she represents who she characterized as making bad decisions to drink or use drugs. She stressed that these young people’s lives are forever changed for the worse.
The students presented a mock trial case involving a First Amendment issue. “I have never done this before,” sophomore Alonzo Bowditch said.
Bowditch played the defendant, a store manager being sued for violating his employee’s right to assemble. The most beneficial thing: “I learned about the legal system,” Bowditch said.
After the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, students were treated to a behind the scenes look. District Attorney Victor Nunez took them to a holding tank, asked them to get inside, and summarily slammed the door. Behind sophomore Kevin Zepeda was a toilet. DA Nunez asked if anyone needed to use the bathroom.
“This is what happens to you if you get in trouble,” Nunez said. “The nice clothes you are wearing are taken and you’re given a jump suit. The good food you eat for lunch, now you get bologna.”
The students left the room clearly effected by the experience.
At lunch attorneys and students sat together talking, eating, and learning about each other. As the program closed, all I could think of as I listened to everyone talking about careers in law was just how very far I have come from being a girl who didn’t know if she wanted to go to college at all.