Provided by Prince William County Bar Association
Each September, thousands of students in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park enter their senior year of high school. It’s an exciting time; the final step in their secondary education before heading off to college, trade school, the military or employment. It’s also a time when they turn 18 and become adults in the eyes of the law. That’s where the Prince William County Bar Association lends a helping hand.
Every year since 1999, the PWC Bar has implemented the “So You’re 18” program for the benefit of every high school senior enrolled in public schools in the tri-school district area. Through this program, seniors learn how their legal rights, restrictions and responsibilities change when they turn 18. They learn about apartment leases, car purchases, consumer credit, traffic laws and how the courts respond to infractions differently depending on their age. They learn these valuable lessons from volunteer attorneys from the PWC Bar Association who visit every high school government class throughout the school year to make these presentations to the students. Last year alone, approximately 90 presentations were given and 6800 “So You’re 18” student handbooks were distributed, compliments of the Virginia State Bar.
School administrative officials welcome the call each summer from the PWC Bar to begin preparations to implement the program again for the next graduating class, and feedback from the teachers and students is positive. But this program would not exist without the dedicated men and women who take time from their busy law practices to visit the schools to talk with the students.
When asked why they support this program year after year, here’s what a few of them had to say: From Pat Foltz: I volunteer for “So You’re 18” for several reasons. First, I believe the program provides the opportunity to provide prospective guidance to young persons who are on the verge of becoming legal adults. Not that teenagers listen to anyone, but I think they engage with attorneys because of the knowledge and experience the presenters bring. Second, it gives us a chance to both provide an example of our profession and advocate for it to young persons who may be considering a professional vocation. Last, it helps us lawyers keep our presentation skills sharp. Presenting before a judge or jury is easy compared to relating and engaging an audience of as many as 70 teenagers.
From John Primeau: I enjoy “So You’re 18” because I get to use my life experiences as prosecutor, a private attorney and father of three to (hopefully) make a positive impression on young people, most of whom have never dealt with a lawyer before. Also, the kids I speak to are, almost without exception, very fun and engaging.
From Scott Krein: I love volunteering for the “So You’re 18” program because it makes me a more confident and dedicated lawyer. Invariably, I leave a high school after a SY18 presentation more optimistic about the future than when I went there. For those of us who spend the better part of most days worrying about managing conflict, speaking with people experiencing the legal change from child to adult about the rights and responsibilities we take for granted every day is inspiring.
From Steve Bamberger: I feel it is “maybe” the only chance some of these young people will have to hear what they are now a part of – the larger world of adults. I have found that there is a high level of interest in what we are presenting. I hope we can help them through the process of becoming adults.
From Tony Kostelecky: I really enjoy “So You’re 18”. It is an opportunity to give a group of young people a chance to hear from and ask questions of a local attorney. Most of the questions and comments are interesting and appropriate, and answering them as best I can is both challenging and fun. Plus, as a graduate of a local high school (Woodbridge, ’86), I feel some connection with these students.
From Jon Rochkind: “So You’re 18” is one program that I am never too busy to make time for. I enjoy presenting “So You’re 18” for a number of reasons. Simply put, it just makes me feel good. When I finish my presentations I hope I have accomplished the following:
1) That my students understand the significance of being 18 or an adult;
2) That my students realize that their behavior now has consequences;
3) That my students learn something about the law both criminally and civilly;
4) That I hopefully prevent one of my students from making a mistake in the next couple of years that may affect them later in life;
5) That as a result of my talk, my students will become better citizens;
6) That when my students face a decision in their life they will remember my talk and accordingly make the right choice;
7) That my students gain an appreciation for the efforts and love of their parents, teachers and coaches when they are trying to teach them how to be good citizens;
8) That my students do not walk out of the auditorium or classroom thinking that I have wasted their time.
From Jessica Stokes-Johnson: This is by far one of my favorite programs offered by our beloved bar association. Having dealt with quite a few young people whose lives have been greatly impacted in a negative way by one or two bad choices, I find it gratifying and somewhat proactive, that we get an opportunity to educate them on the gravity of becoming a legal adult in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
For more information about this and other community service programming sponsored by the Prince William County Bar Association, visit them on-line at www.pwcba.org