Provided by Prince William County Bar Association
The Prince William County Bar Association is sponsoring a program in area high schools designed to teach high school seniors about the ways in which legal rights, restrictions and responsibilities change when they turn 18. The program is called “So You’re 18” and runs November through May each school year. This is the 18th year the local bar association has sponsored the program and it continues to be a favorite of school administrators, teachers and the lawyers and retired judges who visit the classrooms to give the presentations. Students also receive a copy of the “So You’re 18” student handbook, compliments of the Virginia State Bar.
Carolyn Fusco from Woodbridge Senior High School had this to say about this year’s presentations: “Seniors in 22 government classes participated in the “So You’re 18” presentation. The program is sponsored by the county [bar association and voter registration]and provides an opportunity to register to vote along with information and a pamphlet explaining both rights and responsibilities incurred at the age of eighteen. Mr. Winston Forrest, coordinator for Prince William County elections, conducted the registration the day after the voting results for Prince William County were finalized. The Prince William County Bar Association provided lawyers who presented the curriculum with sound advice to over 600 seniors in attendance. WSHS extends appreciation to Mr. Forrest, Ms. Alissa Hudson, Executive Director of the PWCBA and the following lawyers who volunteered their time: Steve Bamberger, Pat Foltz, Scott Krein, John Primeau, Turkessa Rollins, Blake Woloson and Steve Woodside.”
Each presenter has a unique style of getting their message across. Steve Woodside encourages students to be aware of what they are doing at all times, and to seek advice if they feel uncomfortable in any given situation by checking the “So You’re 18” student handbook or asking someone for help. Woodside also provided scenarios for the students along with advice about what to do, e. g., “If you witness an accident, stop and give assistance. If the police are called you have to stay.” And he reminded students that if you’re 18, you can’t give younger friends things that would be illegal for a juvenile to have.
Steve Bamberger told the students, “There is more than getting to vote,” about turning 18. You can get married, get a credit card, sign a lease or contract and borrow money, but you have to understand the responsibility that goes along with those privileges. If you get married, you are liable for child support for any child that you help produce until that child turns 18. Not paying child support has serious consequences which can include having a hold put on your driver’s license and getting put in jail. Failure to pay credit card bills or loan payments on time can damage your credit score, which can make it difficult for you to buy a car or rent an apartment. And he cautioned them to always read a contract before you sign it, and beware of low introductory offers that increase with time, or automatic renewals.
After each presentation, the students have the opportunity to ask questions. Some were related to under-age possession of cigarettes and alcohol, what it means to be emancipated, why parents have to accompany students to court if they are under 18, and driving without a license. All were patiently answered by the attorneys who volunteer their time to visit the schools. Often, this is the first time a student has had a chance to speak with an attorney and the environment is perfect. It’s an educational experience that builds on what teachers, school administrators and parents are already teaching our maturing youth.
For more about this and other community service programming sponsored by the PWC Bar Association, visit them online at pwcba.org