Jarkira Shird is a Baltimore City Teen Court volunteer superstar, who has been volunteering for four years. She is dedicated to helping her peers learn from their mistakes. Every other Thursday, Jarkira, without seeking any recognition, shows up to do her part for Baltimore’s youth. Whether she volunteers as juror or bailiff, or helps organize the pizza so dinner is served without issue, the MYLaw team has come to depend on and appreciate Jarkira for all her help. I had the pleasure of sharing a slice of pizza with Jarkira before the other volunteers arrived and I asked her, what keeps bringing her back to Baltimore City Teen Court as a volunteer? Jarkira shared that she likes sitting on the jury. As a juror, Jarkira is required to listen to the testimony of the Juvenile Respondent, and subsequently ask questions to determine which sanctions will best help the Respondent learn from his or her mistake. Jarkira explained, “I like jury duty because the sanctions show how to do better in life.”
When Jarkira isn’t at Baltimore City Teen Court, she is preparing for her future. She hopes to study music production in college and save enough money to open a music studio. Her dream job is to be a music producer. For fun, Jarkira likes to go shoe shopping. Her favorite brands are Nike, New Balance and Jordans. Volunteers like Jarkira provide Baltimore City Teen Court the kind of peer insight needed to connect with other youth who need help. At MYLaw, programs such as Teen Court help prepare youth for college, careers and civic responsibility. So, I like to ask youth to think about, if they were President of the United States, what would they say to the Nation? I asked Jarkira, and she answered, “I would say that we need to be a better community, build better housing and help homeless people.” Jarkira has our vote.
Jamon Young, age 16, Grade 11, Frederick Douglass High School
Jamon Young is a regular volunteer at MYLaw’s Baltimore City Teen Court, held every other Thursday night at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center. Baltimore City Teen Court is an alternative for youth who would otherwise end up in the juvenile justice system. Jamon volunteers to sit on the jury of Teen Court dispositional hearings. As a youth juror, Jamon, along with his peer jurors, listen to the respondent’s side of the story to better understand what happened during the incident with the police and why the respondent got into trouble with the law. These young jurors take very seriously every piece of information the respondent shares before considering appropriate sanctions.
I asked Jamon why he continues to return to Teen Court as a juror volunteer. Jamon explained, “I like the process. I like the stories I hear. I think about what they [the respondents] need so they won’t get in trouble again or don’t get into something more serious.” Jamon’s favorite sanction to assign is the 5/10/15 Year Life Plan, which a respondent creates to think about how to achieve future successes. Jamon thinks it helps the respondent stay on track and stay out of trouble. I inquired if Jamon has a 5/10/15 Year Life Plan of his own. Jamon shared that right now he likes being a student at Douglass High School. He spends downtime in the school weight room working out. He plans to play football next season for Douglass High School and then participate as a track member following football season. In five years, Jamon plans to be at college for engineering and technology and after that, to enlist in the military.
Volunteer youth, like Jamon, play an important role in helping their peers navigate better paths towards the future. At MYLaw we seek to “build the next generation of civic-minded citizens.” So, I like to ask youth to think about, if they were President of the United States, what would they say to our great citizenry? I posed this question to Jamon, who took a second to think about the question and then answered, “If I were President, I would tell everyone we need to stop killing each other.” Thank you, Jamon. Well said.
“For me, Law Links was about exposure to a career that I never believed I could enter.”- Alicia Wilson
In June of 1998, Alicia Wilson, then a student at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, joined MYLaw’s MY Law Links internship program. That summer, working with attorneys from the Public Justice Center, she made the fateful decision to become a lawyer. Alicia remembers, “I was in Law Links when I was 15 years old, and at the time being a lawyer was not on my radar, was not in the realm of possibilities that I could envision for myself. Through the exposure in Law Links, I was able to have that light turn on and it was powerful.”
After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Alicia attended the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where she captained the National Trial Team, steering them to a first place ranking. Today, Alicia is a partner at Gordon Feinblatt LLC and the Vice President of community affairs and legal advisor for Sagamore Development. She is actively involved in a range of social justice initiatives that give back to the young people of Baltimore.
Using her law degree to empower her community is important to Alicia. She emphasizes that “my story is a testament to what happens when generous and good-hearted people invest in the future of young people. I think that my story is the story of the collective. I am like thousands of young people. There are 1,000 more Alicia Wilsons that, if we give them the right opportunity at the right time, will have an even greater story.” The MY Law Links program provides these opportunities. For more information about becoming an intern, or sponsoring one, please contact Sonia Dowuona at email@example.com.