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Benchmarks: Journal of the New York State Unified Court System

Fall 2006

Bronx School is Part of New Court Complex

By Anita Womack-Weidner

Students at the Bronx School of Law, Government and Justice have been waiting for the new Bronx courthouse to open. Located on the plaza behind the Bronx Hall of Justice (see article), the school will be able to provide students with a behind-the-scenes look at what really happens in the courts, law firms and the world of forensic science.

The school, which opened in 1997, moved to its current site in 2003. In addition to traditional academic courses, studies include law and government. Learning is not confined to the classroom. Eleventh and twelfth graders have already interned at law firms, the Bronx District Attorney’s office and the New York State Attorney General’s office. Soon they will intern in the new courthouse and neighboring courts, while proximity to the Hall of Justice will give students exposure to the day-to-day workings of the court and regular interaction with judges and court staff. A mentoring program open to judges and court personnel in the area, as well as others who work in the courts, is also getting underway.

The school was developed by the Urban Assembly, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating small, public, college preparatory high schools, as the first school in the country to be physically located within a judicial complex. The combination middle and high school (grades seven through 12) literally abuts the courthouse, and students can walk back and forth between the two buildings, with full use of the courthouse law library.

Mentor applicants will go through a thorough screening process and training before being matched with a student. Mentors must commit a minimum of four hours per month of face-to-face time with a student, according to Natasha Atkins, the school’s mentor program manager.

“I want them [the students] to learn to set and achieve high academic standards and realize what professional opportunities are available to them,” said Atkins. “For the mentors, I hope this program helps them be more connected with the community. Many of the employees are surrounded by high-offending criminals and they may not get the chance to interact positively with the community. This gives them a chance to impact positively on a child’s life.”

Students also participate in mock trial, moot court and guest speaker programs, as well as educational excursions to Germany, Washington, D.C., local courthouses, government offices and law firms. Numerous other offices and institutions, such as the Bronx Borough President’s Office, have partnerships with the school, which is equipped with its own courtrooms and state-of-the-art forensic laboratories for teaching science.

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye spoke at the school in May 2004, in connection with the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, along with then-Senior Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals George Bundy Smith. The school has also participated in the UCS Student Ambassador Program, in which high school, college and law school students educate the public about the courts.

The Urban Assembly has opened 17 schools since 1997, in partnership with the Department of Education and New Visions for Public Schools, the largest education reform organization
in New York City.

For information about the internship program, contact Kimberly Felder at 718-410-3430, ext. 3908, or kfelder@schools.nyc.gov; for the mentoring program, contact Atkins at 347-573-1624 or natkins@urbanassembly.org. Contact Felder or Atkins for a school tour.

Fall 2006 PDF Format
HTML Version:

Contents bullet point Second “Mega-Courthouse” Opens bullet point Justice Court Reforms bullet point Street Corners Renamed for Court Officers bullet point School in New Court Complex bullet point Mental Health Courts bullet point Domestic Violence Awareness Month bullet point Judge Smith Retires bullet point Judge Rosenblatt Retires bullet point Virtual Library Services bullet point Court Programs Broadcast Online bullet point Wi-Fi in the Courts bullet point Deputy Chief Support Magistrate bullet point Court Construction Update bullet point Marian Wright Edelman Addresses Conference bullet point Historic Courthouses and Trials bullet point Did You Know? bullet point Judicial Institute (JI) Program Highlights bullet point JI Legal Updates

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Web page updated: December 11, 2006 - www.NYCOURTS.gov