Name: Tessa Brengelman
From: Midway , Kentucky
School: Woodford County High School
As a sophomore, I decided to volunteer at a local approach. I plan on
majoring in international relations and being from a small town in
Kentucky, I found it hard to find a way to volunteer in a cause that
would have international impact- so I took a step back.
I was so caught up in my dreams of working on the international level
that I neglected to see the cry for help in my own community. It was
then that I decided to volunteer at Woodford County Teen-Court, a
programme for high school students to serve as attorneys and jurors
for juvenile cases.
This wasn’t like the movies at all; in fact, it disappointing at first.
The Teen-Court would not be determining guilt/innocence as we did not
have a license to practice. Instead, we got cases where the defendant
had already plead guilty and were willing to face their peers in the
Teen-Court and follow through with the verdict in order to expunge
the incident from their record. The Teen-Court’s mission is to
reconnect the defendant to their community.
We met for five months to hear a total of ten cases. If I volunteered as
a juror, I would help decide the punishment; if I was an attorney, I
would defend my client/state and would spend extra time meeting with
my fellow Teen-Court Attorneys and client to work on the case.
Although we were all in high school, we were expected to dress
professionally, speak in court rhetoric, follow court room
procedures, and present a crafted argument.
Some cases were standard possession of pocket knives, others involved
intoxication or selling drugs in school. The Teen-Court only
dealt with misdemeanor cases, from threats to breaking a key on a
Either way, the Teen-Court had to be professional as well as maintain
confidentiality. The hardest part was confronting members of my
school and community. It was also the most rewarding aspect.
It was tough to learn the ugly side of my classmates, but watching their
progress after their trial was rewarding. I got to witness character
change and improvement from my peers. Despite living there all my
life, major light was shed on poverty, immigration, and torn families
within my home town.
While I wasn’t handing relations between countries, I was a spokesperson
for my community and got to decide and witness change in youth.
Volunteering for Teen-Court for three years of high school made me
take a better look at what impacts my local community. Learning
professional skills on a local level helped me see how close
everything was connected and it gave me a sense of pride that I made
an impression on not only my community, but on my fellow peers.
Volunteering has helped me help people and to help grow responsibility and
community activism. Channeling my want to help save the world all
started with helping those on my backdoor.