Celebrating two decades of teen court

By Maya Demchak, Staff Writer — Students often dream about what they want to be when they grow up, but few experience what their dream job is truly like. Teen court offers a unique experience to students who dream of a job in the court system, while providing second chances

“Teen Court is a great opportunity for students to not only learn about the law and court procedure, but it gives them the opportunity to provide a crucial community service for their peers,” teacher Jill Collet said.

Twenty years ago Barb Gheen, a Stark County probation officer, started a program called Teen Court. The main goal of the program was to give first time juvenile offenders a second chance, while allowing high school students to experience the court systems. The program was originally only available to McKinley students. Four years later Gheen contacted Collect and Teen Court started at Plain Local Schools.

“For someone who wants a career in law it’s very helpful, it is interesting, fun and informative,” sophomore Victoria Serena said.

In order to participate the students must apply in the fall. Students are required to have twoteacher recommendations, must meet a minimum GPA, and they must answer short answer questions on the application. Court officials will then look through the applications and pick the students they feel will make strong contributors to the court.

“Above all, students need to have the compassion, and be willing to see the promise of all people and encourage them to do better.” Collet said.

Twenty-five students are chosen for the fall season, and 25 are chosen for the spring season. Students who are chosen must be willing to commit four hours per week, provide transportation and to take on roles as attorneys and jury members.

“I think anyone who finds law interesting and wants to make a difference should join.” Serena said.” Teen Court really opens people’s eyes and shows them a different side of life. It is a great experience”

Teen Court unlike many clubs and activities, is not run through the school. Teen Court in run through the Stark County Family Court and is aided by funding through the United Way. It also impacts the community in unconventional type of way.

“When kids come into teen court, we hear their sides of the story.” Serena said” We tell them how they can approve, we give them a second chance.”

[Updated Aug. 20, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]