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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin

Bar Foundation Birmingham Bar Foundation Plants Seeds in Young Minds The Birmingham Bar Foundation has bravely wrested legal instruction from the grip of the classroom and dropped it right in the middle of Birmingham at the Central Public Library. No, the Foundation didn’t need a new place to host a CLE class. Its target participant was much younger than most lawyers and had almost no legal experience—unless you count a child’s innate ability to cross examine anyone. The Birmingham Bar Foundation and the Birmingham Public Library, in conjunction with the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of Alabama, developed curriculum for and designed an after-school mock trial program for local area children. The chief architects of this program were BBF Board Members Kevin L .Butler, Federal Public Defender, and attorney Alicia Jett; Lance Simpson, System Teen Librarian; and Keiah L. Shauku, BBF Director of Education and Outreach. The targeted student group was children, who typically spent several hours after school in the library. They are middle and high school students who attend the schools that surround the Central Library. The participants meet once a week on Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. in the Teen Zone Learning Lab. Of the children, Kevin Butler has said “these guys are so impressive! Their curiosity and eagerness to learn about the law has reignited my passion for the law. Each week, I am amazed by how well the students demonstrate mastery of a particular concept. It is hard to believe that this is really their first time under this type of instruction.” The program has introduced students to the interworking of the legal system, acquainted them with legal jargon, and equipped them to take on the various roles within a courtroom. More important, the program has boosted students’ ability to think critically and taught them how to structure cogent arguments. Lance Simpson describes the partnership with the Foundation as one that is “incredible because it represents a way for the library and the Foundation to directly impact the lives of children and teens in our community through positive dialogue, mentoring, and academically rigorous afterschool programs. We are very grateful for this partnership, and are so excited about the work the Foundation is doing with our kids!” Alicia Jett, Esq., feels that this program—and programs like this—will directly impact not just the legal profession, but also the future. “Lawyers should be involved in the community because this community is where we live and work and we should invest in the future of the community, which in this particular case is the future generation of people we will someday represent or who will be our colleagues. In such a negative world, it is fulfilling and uplifting to go do projects like this that have a positive impact on the future,” she said. With parents trekking from as far away as St. Clair County, the program has already demonstrated how important it is to the greater community. Participants are giving the program ringing endorsements, like the one from 14-year-old Akili Shauku, who said “the lawyers have made learning about the legal system fun and engaging.” With students volunteering to spend their afterschool hours learning about our legal system, it is evident that the Birmingham Bar Foundation has struck upon a unique way to engage with and create the lawyers of tomorrow. On March 16, 2017 at 3:30 p.m., the students will show their skills and what they have learned when they conduct a mock trial in Judge Joseph Boohaker’s courtroom in the Jefferson County Courthouse. “We are very proud of our participants. We greatly appreciate the time and talent that our attorney volunteers have given to make this program successful by working with the youth in our program. We, too, thank Judge Boohaker for his support of the program,” Nikki Tucker Thomas, BBF Executive Director, said. For more information about the Foundation’s mock trial program, contact the Birmingham Bar Foundation at bbfound@bellsouth. net. G Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Spring 2017 21


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin
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