Annual Gala to Support Local High School Law Academies

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On September 27, the CCCBA will once again host its Gala Reception at the Lafayette Park Hotel. This year’s Gala benefits Contra Costa High School Law Academies. Special guests Dr. Ovick, County Superintendent of Schools, and Supervisors  John Gioia (Dist 1) and Federal Glover (Dist 5) join the local legal community in supporting these important programs for at-risk high school students.

Law Academy student Joseph, presenting the academy’s business development plan.

Law & Justice Academies are vital because they help students excel academically, prepare for college, and explore careers in the legal field. The academy model is based on meeting the needs of students who are at risk due to poor attendance, low test scores, or because they are economically disadvantaged. Students receive exposure to the legal profession and develop the skills and knowledge needed to embark on advanced professional and academic careers. Department of Education reports show that academy students have significantly higher graduation rates and scores. Additionally, the academy model helps more students meet UC admission requirements.

“Law & Justice Academies instill in students purpose for remaining in school and direction in a variety of law-related careers after graduation. All of our futures are brighter because of these collective efforts.” Dick Frankel, a member of the Deer Valley Law & Justice Academy Advisory Committee.

The goal of this year’s Gala is to raise $30,000 to fund law-related field trips, Mock Trial programs and teacher training. Academies being honored are Deer Valley High School Law & Justice Academy (Antioch), Richmond Law Academy, and De Anza Law Academy (Richmond).

Below are some details about this year’s Gala Honorees and the types of programs that will benefit from this year’s proceeds. For more information, come join us at the Gala where you can meet some of the Law Academy students, see their work, and hear how High School Law Academies engage and inspire students in Contra Costa County.

Richmond High School Law Academy

Christopher Darden and the Hon. Diana Becton with RHS Law students during the Color of Justice event held in Martinez

The mission of the Richmond High School Law Academy is to help students become public leaders and public servants who can effect democratic and equitable change in their school and community.

Some of the programs that RHS Law Academy students participate in are Mock Trial, Junior Statesman (JSA) and summer internships. According to Mary Kadri, one of the Law Academy lead teachers, students greatly valued their experience in Mock Trial, and made tremendous gains in public speaking, and critical thinking. Students who participated in JSA developed their debating skills and their knowledge of political and social issues, as well as the government process. Kadri also reported that “[t]his experience also gave the students exposure to a much wider and whiter community than they have ever experienced, and they gained confidence outside of their comfort zone.” All of these programs would be supported by grant funding from Gala proceeds.

De Anza Law Academy

De Anza Law Academy students receive exposure to the legal profession, and develop the skills and knowledge needed to embark on advanced professional and academic careers.

Last year, De Anza Law Academy students prepared a series of presentations about realignment addressing different issues in the areas of pre-trial, alternatives to incarceration, and re-entry. Many solutions were aimed at reducing recidivism, overcrowding, and costs while providing benefits for both the offender and the community. Students researched the bill through several mediums. They met with community members and professionals in the field involved in the decision-making process for the bill, researched alternatives to incarceration, and developed a proposal. They presented their findings to a panel of members from the legal professions and the community.

Due to recent budget cuts in the state, the law academy does not have funds for teachers to work on law academy projects outside of the classroom, such as attending field trips, teacher trainings and academy tutoring. According to Mirel Rivera, Law Academy Lead, “[f]ield trips are an essential part of career exploration, exposing students to the real world applications of the concepts they learn in the classroom. However, without adults who can supervise them and connect the concepts from the classroom to the field, the students would not benefit as much from a field trip.” Gala proceeds will support Mirel Rivera’s goals for the Law Academy.

Deer Valley High School Law & Justice Academy

Law Academy student Sierra presenting the magazine students created, focusing on the role of women in the law

The DVHS Law & Justice Academy is a small learning community at DVHS. Law and justice integrated curriculum is embedded within classes and extracurricular activities provide a rigorous and relevant course of study that meets or exceeds the requirements for the University of California admissions.

An internship class will be offered this school year, and students will again have the opportunity to create a magazine. Last year’s magazine focused on women’s role in the law. This year, the magazine will be about the students’ city, Antioch. Students will focus on the history, laws and the local community with industry professionals providing feedback and insight to the developing articles.

The academy realizes the importance of work-based learning experiences. The importance was highlighted last year, when the academy’s 11th graders went on a field trip to the 1968 Exhibit at the Oakland Museum, many said they had never been to a museum before. Teachers are often reluctant to charge for field trips since 40 percent of the students at Deer Valley receive free and reduced lunch which is based on the family’s income. Grant funds from Gala proceeds would go towards subsidizing field trips to Contra Costa County Superior courthouses, the State Capitol and the San Francisco Federal Court.

Can CCCBA members support county high school law academies in other ways?

In addition to financial support, Law Academies are always looking for guest speakers, mentors, Mock Trial coaches and general volunteers. Practicing attorneys, retired attorneys, law students, judges, court personnel and law enforcement are all welcome to participate.

For more information about the Gala or Law Academies, please contact Theresa Hurley at (925) 370-2548 or thurley@cccba.org.

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