July 20, 2012
The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University has received a national award from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) for its commitment to diversity and for demonstrating that commitment through programs for underrepresented students in high school and college.
Marisol Diaz, director of Admissions and Student Groups at the College of Law, accepted the third annual Diversity Matters Award on behalf of the law school during the LSAC’s annual meeting in Boca Raton, Fla.
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The award is made each year to schools that demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity by designing programming for high school and college students from racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in law schools and the legal profession.
“We are very proud of the efforts of faculty, staff, students and our partners in the community to continue to reach out to underserved communities,” said Douglas Sylvester, dean of the college. “Having our outreach programs recognized as the best in the country by the Law School Admission Council is a high honor.”
The award is sponsored by the council’s Diversity Initiatives Office and its website discoverlaw.org. More than 200 law schools are members of LSAC, which administers the Law School Admission Test and otherwise assists with admissions of students.
The umbrella for the College of Law’s diversity programs is the Hispanic National Bar Association’s (HNBA) Mentoring Program. It assigns students in K-12 to mentoring teams comprising attorneys, law students, college students and high school students. Although the HNBA program serves many students of color, it is open to those of all ethnicities.
The program acts as a stepladder for these students to fulfilling and meaningful work in the legal profession in a number of ways. High school students gain exposure to information about college, undergraduate and pre-law students learn about the law school admissions process and the importance of taking challenging classes, and all students, including law students, get an inside view of the practice of law with attorney mentors.
Law students in the program periodically provide mentoring and outreach to elementary school students. For example, a law student organized an outreach program in which several minority law students visited the Eliseo Felix Elementary School in Goodyear, Ariz., and taught sessions in the classrooms. A couple of months later, the elementary students were excited to visit the state courts and legislature, under a grant from the State Bar of Arizona Diversity Program.
Other diversity programs at the College of Law include:
Street Law strives not only to educate young people about the law, but to empower them to take an active role in the civic affairs of their schools, communities and country, and to enable them to identify problems and make positive changes in their lives and in others. With a primary goal to increase diversity in the legal profession, law students from the College of Law’s Youth Mentoring Board are guest teachers in freshman classes at South Mountain High School.
Library tours and exercises – Each October, students from South Mountain High tour the College of Law’s Ross-Blakley Law Library and receive instruction from staff about legal research. They are assigned to find, read, analyze and report on a U.S. Supreme Court opinion. The event traditionally takes place in the same week as the fall kick-off dinner for the HNBA/ASU Mentoring Program.
Junior Law/CourtWorks exposes local middle school students in Phoenix, specifically focusing on Title I schools, to aspects of law school. Students are engaged in discussing an issue that is relevant to them and impacts their lives. The program seeks to foster an interest in the study of law and to encourage students to focus on academic achievement and higher education.
Law students guide middle school students through the constitutional framework, the facts of the case, the arguments and counterarguments, writing and presenting opening and closing arguments, examining and cross examining witnesses, and the final U.S. Supreme Court decision. CourtWorks culminates in a mock trial at the federal district courthouse where students perform the roles of judge, attorneys, witnesses and jury members.
Practicing attorneys and law students assist the students as they try their case, and at the end of the trial, students hear from U.S. District Court Judge Mary Murguia, the program’s host. Attorneys in the community, parole and police officers, court personnel and U.S. marshals also speak to the students, exposing them to a wide range of professions within the legal system.