Phoenix high school students visit the College of Law

Students from South Mountain High School visited the College of Law, Sept. 24, as part of a law magnet program for youth.

The program is part of a broader effort to mentor and reach out to high school and college students in the community, according to Charles Calleros, a professor of law at ASU who offered advice to the students.

Calleros said the annual library research project targets high school students who have already indicated an interest in the law. It gives them an opportunity to form an opinion on a topic, take notes, and then report to their class afterwards.

“Those of us who organize the events see it as part of the school's responsibility to provide information, guidance, inspiration and opportunities for youth in the community regarding higher education and legal careers,” Calleros said.

Kevin Juarez, a junior at South Mountain, has been involved in the law magnet program since he was a freshman. He was inspired to join after his uncle was accused of working in the U.S. without proper documentation.

“He (my uncle) didn’t have his papers with him, so they took him away,” Juarez said. “I didn’t understand why my uncle was in trouble, so I wanted to find out more about it.”

Aramina Kennedy wanted to study law long before entering high school. Kennedy has participated in programs like the Arizona Teen Court Association (AZTCA) since seventh grade, and wants to become a forensic analyst like her role model Abbey, a character from the television program, “NCIS.”

Ericka Martinez, another student, said Teen Court inspired her to join the law magnet program.

“We were able to decide the outcome in small cases, and it felt good,” Martinez said. “Since then, law has been my favorite subject.”

Brenda Lee, the children’s law studies instructor and director of the law magnet program at South Mountain High led her students on a tour of the College of Law, where they performed research, which they would later present to the class.

“It really immerses them into the field of law,” Lee said about the program.

“The curriculum in high school is very black and white,” she said. “Here it’s much more real world, and allows them to make connections on their own.”

Student ambassador and first-year law student Bryson Jones volunteered to help the students in their research. Jones said he’s excited for the law magnet programs to expand into other high schools around the valley.

“These kids have a program from their freshman year all the way to graduation that lets them get their feet wet before college,” he said. “I really wish I had this in high school.