2007-08-31 / Community

Youth Court Gears Up For Second Term

Local Teens Being Sort For Peer Program
By Miriam Rosenberg

Current Youth Court members in front of the Queens County Civil Court House where they visited with the Honorable G. Lane on August 9. Current Youth Court members in front of the Queens County Civil Court House where they visited with the Honorable G. Lane on August 9. The Far Rockaway Youth Court is gearing up for its second term and recruiting has begun to fill 24 vacant positions in the peer program.

The Youth Court is made up of local teens, 14 to 18 years of age, who hear actual cases involving other teens who have been cited for school disciplinary infractions or arrested for low-level crimes such as vandalism, assault and truancy.

According to Nancy Vazquez, the Far Rockaway Youth Court Coordinator, in a prepared statement, "The goal of the court is to use positive peer pressure to ensure that young people committing low level offenses pay back the community and receive the help they need to avoid school exclusion and further involvement in the justice system. At the same time, the program empowers trained Youth Court Members to become community leaders: setting standards for acceptable behavior, making the community safer and helping other teens."

Applicants for such positions as jurors, advocates, bailiffs and judge must be attending school or a GED program. If selected, teens would take part in 30-hours of training beginning in October.

Youth court staff, lawyers, social workers and a judge teen participant will instruct the prospective court member about the law and in skills in writing opening and closing statements, precision questions, critical thinking and public speaking.

Once a teen successfully completes training and passes a Youth Court "Bar Exam" they then can become a member of the court for six months. During that time, they will be involved in cases of fellow youths ranging from 10 to 18 years old. Hearings are held one night week and each member receives a monthly stipend of $50 their services.

The Youth Court works in concert with the 100 and 101 Precincts, schools and youth programs in the area.

The first session of Far Rockaway's Youth Court began after 60 teens were sworn in at a ceremony on May 10.

"Interviews for interested teens will be held in September. The 24 positions for Youth Court Members are expected to fill up quickly," said the press release.

Anyone interested in applying for program or in getting additional information can contact Nancy Vazquez, Far Rockaway Youth Court Coordinator at (718) 474-2168.

The Far Rockaway Youth Court is a project of the Center for Court Innovation and is supported by a grant from the Office of Justice Programs Community Capacity Development Office through the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

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