Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2017 – Second Chances

Name: Andrea Gomez
From: Boston, Massachusetts
Grade: 11th grade (currently incoming college freshman)
School: Boston University
Votes: 0

Second chances are not always available. It is no secret that in our
society, one mistake can mark a person’s life forever, even when it
was committed by accident or lack of knowledge. However, I have
always believed that these types of mistakes deserve mercy and
understanding, which is why I joined the Miami Dade County Teen Court
Program where I volunteered between three and six hours per week.
What makes this Teen Court program unique, is that it allows minors
who committed a misdemeanor to reflect on and learn from their
actions to become assets to society and walk out of the courtroom
with a clean record.

By assuming the role of prosecution and defense attorneys
alternatively in juvenile cases, I walked minors through the judicial
process, to help them understand that their actions affect them as
well as those who surround them. As the prosecution, I had the task
of showing the tough side of the law and making them feel remorse,
while as the defense attorney I had the task of showing compassion
and highlighting their ability to serve others. At the end of the
trial, these teenagers were given a sentence: a verbal apology to
their parents, a written apology to the people they wronged, and
several hours of community service. This was, therefore, a
constructive lesson learned through service to the public.

Alternating between prosecution and defense was an enormous
challenge, as I had to work with teenagers who were either truly
remorseful or completely indifferent. The first time I had to be the
defense attorney, a girl had been found guilty of battery and she did
not care about the physical and emotional wellbeing of others. How
could I defend her? I talked to my teacher and mentor, Nathalie
Ortega, who told me that my job was not only to humanize her in front
of the jury, but also help her feel the need to make up for her
actions. After what seemed hours of counseling, the girl finally
understood that she owed respect to everyone. Seeing that type of
change on her and all the teenagers I had to represent gave me the
most satisfaction, because I felt that I changed their perspective in
a positive way.

Volunteering at the Miami Dade County Teen Court Program was the most
unique and rewarding experience I have had in community service. No
doubt, my desire to become a lawyer allowed me to do my best in the
courtroom. But this program taught me the importance of compassion,
kindness, and second chances, which go hand in hand with “forward
looking” because it gives hope and promotes the belief that there
is forgiveness after a mistake, thereby inspiring others to improve
themselves. I believe that this program allows volunteers to
encourage teenagers to take positive leadership roles in their
communities, thereby ensuring that when I come back in a few years, I
will see the adults I once guided working hard towards integrity and
personal values.

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