Waipahu, Roosevelt High students benefit from mentoring program at UH Law School

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly A. Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Feb 29, 2016

High school students in the "Discover Law" program at the UH Law School.
High school students in the "Discover Law" program at the UH Law School.

Fifty-two local high school students took part in a special "Discover Law" program at the UH Law School on Friday, February 26, 2016, learning about the possibility of careers in law and the broad scope of justice in their own communities.

Students from Waipahu and Roosevelt high schools, along with teachers and counselors, spent the morning at the William S. Richardson School of Law at UH Mānoa learning about trial procedures; doing legal exercises, including one involving the delicate art of negotiation; and hearing from law students.

For Brent Micua, a 16-year-old junior from Waipahu High, which has a law and justice academy, it was a chance “to learn about the law and justice” from people who are teaching and practicing it every day. “I watch a lot of cop shows like ‘Criminal Minds’ and it’s pretty cool,” he said. He also thinks that, someday, he just might consider law school.

Those are the kinds of ideas that Roosevelt teacher Ryan Darnell hopes are being fostered with this UH partnership. “By giving them a taste of law school, it could help them decide what their major might be,” he said about the high school students.

James Diehl, a third-year law student graduating this May, is the president of SPOCE or Students for Public Outreach and Civic Education, an organization of Richardson law students that planned the program. Diehl said that simply having the opportunity to visit the UH Law School and to hear from professors is a unique chance to explore potential careers as well as to be introduced to the only law school in the Pacific.

“For a lot of students this is the only way they’re going to be exposed to law at an early age,” said Diehl. “For them, it may be an eye-opening experience.”

It’s also an experience that many of the Richardson students wished they had had. “I grew up in the public school system and I never learned even the most basic things about law that a citizen should understand,” said Lucy Brown ’18. “From a civics standpoint, it should be taught and a face put to it. These students are intrigued, they’re figuring it out and problem-solving, and it’s exciting to see them engaged and interested. That’s what we’re doing every day in law school.”

For Richardson student Linnea Schuster ’17, the program is “a way to involve high school students in the law school process in a more accessible way. If you get them excited before college, it shows them this is something they could do."

Added Brown, “It’s like putting a little idea in their heads. It could make all the difference down the road.”

Among the Richardson faculty members involved in the day were Liam Skilling ’07, Director of the Evening Part-Time Program and Academic Success; Professor Justin Levinson; and Associate Faculty Specialist Ken Lawson, Interim Co-Director of the Hawai‘i Innocence Project. They all shared both personal and legal perspectives with the students. In addition, a panel of current law students discussed the challenges they face, but also the fun and satisfaction they receive as students at Richardson.

As volunteers with SPOCE, UH law students are deeply engaged in mentoring high school students, including assisting as part of Hawai‘i Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald’s "Courts in the Community" program. They help develop curriculum around current cases, and spend time in the high schools coaching and teaching students about cases and their significance. SPOCE president Diehl also noted that the organization holds "Street Law" classes in a number of high schools to acquaint students with their legal rights.

“No students at any other law school are as involved in the community as are Richardson students,” said Law School Dean Avi Soifer. “This program is just one good example of their willingness to commit time and effort to others, no matter how busy they are.”

Added Skilling, “We’re the most humane law school.  We help each other, and take care of each other -- and there’s a lot of good food!”

For more information, visit: https://www.law.hawaii.edu/