Haynes and Boone Lawyers Mentor At-Risk Youth

12/21/2009

As part of a pledge to give back to the communities we serve, lawyers from Haynes and Boone's Dallas and Richardson offices each year host groups of talented at-risk students from the drop-out prevention organization Communities in Schools at career days and holiday celebration events.

In 2009, the projects proved especially rewarding.

Students Build Lego Mindstorm Robots

On Dec. 15, the firm took 15 junior high school students to the University of Dallas Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. Graduate students in the University’s Academic Bridge Program, a program that recruits Dallas-area urban high school graduates, helped the middle school visitors build and program Lego Mindstorm robots. Divided into teams, the students used computers to program the robots to perform tasks and respond to sound commands.

“The students worked well together,” said Michelle Scholz, a freshman electrical engineering major. “They had a blast – that’s for sure.”

Haynes and Boone Associate Dan Gold coordinated the event. “These students have incredible potential. It is so important to expose them to higher level educational facilities and opportunities, and to show them people and resources are available to help them achieve their dreams.”

After their time in the engineering lab, the students and graduate mentors enjoyed pizza and presents. Dean George Fair and Professor Simeon Ntafos spoke to the students about college, careers, and opportunities in engineering and science.

Students Participate in Mock Trial at the Courthouse

On Dec. 16, Haynes and Boone volunteers keep the holiday spirit alive by taking a group of first- and second-graders to the George Allen Courthouse to participate in a mock trial. Students went through jury selection in the central jury room then proceeded to the Merrill Hartman Courtroom where they tried Daphne v. Shaggy, Cause No. 2008-1000.

Students acted as plaintiff, defendant, counsel for each party and jury members. Dallas Court of Appeals Justice Mary Murphy presided over the mock trial. Justice Murphy, Justice Lana Myers and Associate Judge Teresa Guerra Snelson each spoke to the children about how they became lawyers and judges. Dallas partner Patrick Keating spearheaded the event.

“Unfortunately, many at-risk children are only exposed to the law in a negative way,” Keating said. “This program gives students a chance to understand and trust the justice system.” “It also show the children that they can become lawyers or judges if they want to and work hard in school.”

“Haynes and Boone’s partnership with CIS has been a huge success. Looking forward, we hope to both expand the program and to see our other offices emulate it in their cities. The experience is as rewarding for us as it is for the students,” Keating said.

After the trial’s conclusion, students had their photos taken with several judges from the courthouse. They received holiday gifts and snacks.

Communities in Schools Dallas Region (CISDR) provides academic and support services to at-risk youth on 75 campuses in ten school districts in Dallas. The organization has measurable success in increasing attendance rates, parental involvement and graduation rates.

The annual CISDR events were implemented by retired partner Noel Hensley in 2007, in an effort to expose students to education and career possibilities they might not have another opportunity to experience.

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