2007-02-23 / Community

Far Rockaway Youth Court Is Hiring Teens

They'll Work As Judges, Lawyers And Jurors On Local Juvenile Cases

By Brian Magoolaghan

Recruiters are looking for about two dozen teenage students from this area for a new youth court system in which Rockaway teens will be paid to be the jurors, judges and attorneys in real cases involving their peers, The Wave has learned.

Participants in the Far Rockaway Youth Court program will receive 40 hours of training from professional judges, lawyers and social workers. Once they pass the program's equivalence of the bar exam, the teens will serve one night per week on a rotating basis in the "courthouse," which is currently located at the Goldie Maple Academy on Beach 56 Street.

The program, which is being developed in conjunction with the Queens District Attorney's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice, relies on constructive sentencing, peer leaders and provides access to social services, according to a written description of the program. The punishments, or sanctions as they are called, include community service, letters of apology, essay writing or skill building workshops on subjects such as conflict resolution and setting goals.

"We're trying to get to teens before they commit higher level crime and enter the [justice] system," said Nancy Vazquez of the Center for Court Innovation, which, according to its website, is a "non-profit think tank that helps courts and criminal justice system aid victims, reduce crime and improve public trust in justice."

Vazquez, the program coordinator for Far Rockaway, said recruiters aren't just searching for scholars and angels.

"We're looking for a diverse group, so that could be straight-A students to students who've been in trouble with the law," she explained.

Participants must be enrolled students between the ages of 14 and 18, but there are no academic requirements. Members of the youth court will receive a stipend of $60 per month.

Interviews will be held in March and the court should be in session by late April, according to Vazquez. The 24 slots are expected to fill up quickly.

Applicants must submit a completed application prior to their interview. To request an application or for more information, contact Vazquez at (718) 474-2168.

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