60 Students Benefit From Inglewood Power Lunch
by Hon. Nicole Bershon
On November 17, 2011, 60 ninth- and tenth- graders from Inglewood High School’s College Preparatory Program came to the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Inglewood Courthouse to participate in a Power Lunch Program with judges and staff from the Inglewood Court. The Power Lunch Program was the brainchild of the Los Angeles Superior Court, and, under the leadership of WLALA Board Member Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, along with Judge Samantha Phillips Jessner, former WLALA President Karla Kerlin, and Judge Gail Ruderman Feuer, and with essential support from Marlow Gory of the court’s Community Relations Office, the program has provided education and mentorship to hundreds of high school students in under-served, ethnically diverse communities. The purpose of the program is to serve as a pipeline for students from diverse communities to enter the legal profession as well as to learn about the various roles of the other professionals who provide essential support to each courtroom. Throughout the year, between 350 and 400 students from various schools come to courthouses throughout Los Angeles County to have lunch with justice system professionals, including judges, lawyers and members of law enforcement, as well as to hear from other court personnel, including judicial assistants, court reporters, and interpreters.
In 2010, under the leadership of former WLALA President Helen Kim, the WLALA Foundation obtained a grant to help provide continued financial support for the program as well as administrative and volunteer assistance. That partnership continued during the tenure of Immediate Past President Angela Haskins, who secured additional outside funding for the program. Most recently, the Power Lunch Program received the County Image Enhancement Award during Los Angeles County’s Productivity and Quality Awards ceremony on October 19, 2011.
On November 17, 2011, the Inglewood High School students learned about the career paths of Site Judge John Meigs, as well as Judges Victor Wright and Lauren Weis Birnstein (an Inglewood High School alumna), and Commissioners Nicole Bershon and Susan Weiss. They also heard from a court reporter (who performed a live transcription demonstration), bailiff, judicial assistant, interpreter, deputy public defender, deputy city attorney, and a private criminal defense attorney. The students asked probing questions about what it takes to become a successful bench officer, lawyer, or member of the courtroom staff, and they seemed particularly interested in the fate of women in the legal profession.
Three Power Lunches (including the most recent one at Inglewood High) have already been planned for the 2011-2012 WLALA program year, with more on the way. Commissioner Cynthia Zuzga has assisted in arranging the next Power Lunch, which is scheduled for November 30, 2011, at the Metropolitan Courthouse, southwest of downtown, with students from Santee High School. Another Power Lunch is currently scheduled for Thursday, January 26th, at the Torrance Courthouse with students from Narbonne High School.
Volunteers interested in participating in any of the upcoming Power Lunches should contact WLALA Executive Administrator Kay Burt at (213) 892-8982 or contact the WLALA office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Nicole Bershon is the WLALA Power Lunch Liaison and is a Past President of WLALA.