Kids Learn About the Law, Speak About Issues

Kids eating lunch in the quad
Kids Learn About the Law, Speak About Issues
June 12, 2017
Hartford, CT

Three major events brought about 1,000 children and teens to UConn School of Law in May to speak and learn about civil rights, human rights and careers in the law.

On May 23, about 700 middle and high school students came to the campus for Kids Speak, a forum intended to raise awareness across a range of issues, including diversity, school climate and bullying. Students participated in group exercises, improvisations and debates, and also heard from a panel of experts on diversity and anti-bullying measures. The speakers included state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Avery and Hartford Police Detective Shawn Ware, among others.

The annual event is tied to the Kids Court Essay Competition, which awards prizes for short essays on one of five selected issues tied to human and civil rights. Students with the highest scores for their papers are invited to the Oral Kids Court Competition, which will be held in June at the State Capitol. Kids Speak, founded in 1993 by UConn Law students Cheryl Sharp and Rae Thiesfield-Vann, is now run by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

On May 26 and May 31, two groups of students attended the Connecticut Bar Association’s pipeline program Pathways to Legal Careers at the Law School. They heard from judges, attorneys and law school officials about their career paths and what steps students should take towards acceptance into law school.

The first group consisted of about 165 third- and fourth-grade students from Hartford's Achievement First schools and the second group comprised about 145 students from New London High School, Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London, the Law and Government Academy at Hartford Public High School, and Hartford Trinity Academy.

Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Richard A. Robinson and Superior Court judges Sheila M. Prats and Kenneth L. Shluger spoke about different fields of law on a panel moderated by Assistant Attorney General Christine Jean-Louis. Attorneys Margaret I. Castinado, Sheila S. Charmoy, Proloy K. Das and Denise V. Zamore served on a panel of first-generation citizens moderated by attorney Garlinck Dumont.

How to get into law school and pay for it was the topic of a panel moderated by Karen DeMeola, Assistant Dean for Enrollment and Students at UConn School of Law. It featured Roberta Frick, director of financial aid at UConn Law; Kathy A. Kuhar, associate dean of students at Quinnipiac University School of Law; and Diane Whitney, pre-law advisor at UConn.

DeMeola, who is also president of the Connecticut Bar Association, said the UConn Law campus provided a perfect setting to encourage kids to engage with the law.

”Sometimes just visiting a law school campus can inspire a student to consider attending. But we know that is not enough,” she said. "To ensure that students, in particular students from marginalized communities, truly feel like law school is an option, we need to be intentional in our outreach, programming and mentoring. Pathways is one step toward creating a bigger pipeline toward practice of law."