Duo Gains Real-Life Courtroom Experiences

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Two juniors in the Central High School District are receiving real-life experience in the judicial system.  

Callie Burns of Kennedy High School and Emma DeOliveira of Mepham High School are volunteer advocates for Nassau County’s Adolescent Diversion Program.

“This experience really shows us different aspects of the law and allows us to experience in a courtroom setting,” DeOliveira said.

The goal of Adolescent Diversion is to reduce convictions and recidivism rates among this vulnerable age group. In Nassau County, all 16- and 17-year-old respondents who are facing non-violent criminal charges in Nassau County are immediately referred to ADP. 

Burns, who is working on her Advanced Science Research project, is investigating the suspension and expulsion rates in high school students throughout Long Island. 

“Instead of juvenile correction, I act as a prosecutor and study police reports, similar cases, and meet with the client,” she explained. “Then I work with the team to present the case, as well as opening and closing remarks, to a judge. The judge is either a senior advocate in the program as well or a real court judge.”

The defense, also comprised of a panel of high school advocates, then offers a sentence that does not involve incarceration. 

“It can be community service or them serving on juries for other cases,” added DeOliveira.

The Nassau County Courts then takes over to see that the defendant completes their sentence.

“If he doesn’t comply then his case is put into real court and he has the potential of serving time in juvenile detention,” explained Burns.

Both Burns and DeOliveira agreed that most of the defendants they’ve come into contact with choose to use the experience as a learning process.
“The process shows you that kids really do change from this program,” DeOliveira.