Prince William County Bar Association’s Longest Running Community Outreach Program Goes Virtual

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Provided by Prince William County Bar Association

Since 1999, the Prince William County Bar Association has sponsored the “So You’re 18” in every high school in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.  “So You’re 18,” developed by the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local Bar Associations, covers the legal rights, restrictions, and responsibilities associated with turning 18. Over 90 trained volunteer attorneys from the PWCBA visit high school seniors during government classes and spend their time answering questions, passing out booklets of information, and providing resources to Prince William County’s new young adults.            

This in-person session covers landlord tenant law, credit and consumer law issues, the importance of voting, and the consequences associated with underage drinking and driving. The PWCBA members, the Prince William County Public School system, and students look forward to “So You’re 18” every year.

How Schools Adapted

That changed in 2020. The program was cut short in March due to COVID restrictions before presentations could be given in the last four high schools.  High schools, teachers, and the PWCBA quickly collaborated to turn this beloved community service program virtual. According to Melissa Viola-Askey, Administrative Coordinator for History and Social Sciences with PWC Public Schools, “teachers and school administrators worked together to create an on-line teaching module for the program that incorporates two videos prepared by the PWC Bar, the So You’re 18 booklet prepared by the Virginia State Bar, and a quiz developed by a teacher at Woodbridge Senior High School, to test the students’ understanding of the information presented.

“Teachers are able to import the module into their Canvas platform and assign to students at their own pace.  Some teachers are choosing to deviate from the module by assigning additional activities. For example, a teacher from Freedom High School is having his students work in pairs to read a section of the booklet and create PowerPoint slides to synthesize the content, which will then be presented to their peers.”

Questions and Answers

The final question on the quiz is open ended, giving the students the opportunity to ask a question of a lawyer.  Patriot High School is the first school where the class of 2021 utilized “So You’re 18” virtually, They have submitted over 40 questions from their students, which will be answered by PWCBA attorneys.  Here are a few of those questions and answers:

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor? A felony is a crime for which the maximum punishment is a term of incarceration of longer than one year. A misdemeanor is a crime for which the maximum jail sentence is no more than one year.

What is the minimum age to get a credit card and how should we handle it in the beginning? To secure a credit card on your own, you must be at least 18 years old. Anyone can utilize a credit card, though, under the age of 18,if that person is an authorized user on another’s account. Creditors can extend credit to anyone who has an obligor to back the debt, and the decision is based on the parent/guardian’s credit. When the credit card and debt are yours and yours alone, as an 18 year old, you should handle it very carefully, with extreme prudence. Remember that it’s not a large supply of money you just came into – it’s an account against which you are taking out loans and loans which you must pay back.

Prince William County Schools and the PWCBA are confident that all high schools will be able to participate in “So You’re 18” virtually in 2021.  To learn more about the program, please visit pwcba.org.

 

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