Building Bridges with Our Local Community

by Artoor Minas

Earlier this semester, I felt conflicted. I wasn’t sure what class I should take. It would have been great to take one of the seminars on Bankruptcy or Tax law; those were my two logical choices since they fit perfectly into my schedule. Then I ran into Mr. Kyle Varga on campus, a friend and fellow 2L classmate. I told him about my situation and that I needed to enroll into another class, but was hesitant with the classes that were available. Without giving it a second thought, he then instructed me to take Street Law.

         What is Street Law? As I have quickly realized, street law is not your ordinary law class. There is no professor calling on you at random. There are no cases read, no grades, just a simple pass-fail designation for each person in the class, which helps eliminate the awful cut-throat, competitive environment of law school. In Street Law, you go out into the community and you are the teacher.

         Street Law began in 1972 at Georgetown University School of Law as a way of reaching out to the local community. The program has since spread to law schools throughout the nation including Whittier Law School. The  Street Law program reaches out to at-risk high school students, many of whom have already been in trouble with the law. The program seeks to provide a greater understanding of the law to these students, empowering them with the knowledge of their basic fundamental rights as U.S. citizens. It is certainly a rare opportunity for law students to become the educator.

         Having been a high school teacher in Hungary prior to my arrival to Whittier, I became immediately interested in attending my first Street Law class after listening to Mr. Varga’s pitch. I acquire two units for getting to know a group of high school students and leading a classroom discussion as I did in Hungary. The class is extremely beneficial for both the students and the teacher. After all, it’s arguable that the best method of showing that you truly understand a concept is whether you can teach that concept to another person. Street Law not only gives law students an opportunity to reinforce the knowledge they already carry, but it also allows them to be active members of the community.

         As a second-year law student who is constantly engaged in the day-to-day stressors of classes and life changing around me, sometimes it is easy to forget why I originally decided to attend law school. Street Law has helped remind me of the values and aspirations I hold: wanting to positively impact the lives of others through the legal profession. One of my primary goals this semester is to assist in empowering the local youth. As always, that journey begins in the classroom.

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