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At this summer camp, students judge legal careers for themselves
Teens participate in five-day sessions on law jobs
Published Friday, May 24, 2019 8:49 pm
by Sam Palian | The Charlotte Post

the annual Court Camp at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse gives teens opprtunities to learn about careers in legal professions.

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Sheldon Huggins wants a career in criminal law.

In order to expose teenagers like the North Mecklenburg High School junior to opportunities in the justice system, the Mecklenburg County Courthouse hosts Court Camp, four five-day sessions in which students get a behind-the-scenes look at the criminal justice and legal fields.

Camp dates are June 24-28, July 8-12 and July 15-19 July 29-Aug. 2. The registration deadline is May 31. There are 15 spots available for each session and it costs $125 per student. Upon the proper request and meeting certain criteria, scholarships and sponsorships are available.

Huggins attended the camp in 2017 after searching for something to keep him busy during the summer and to stay out of trouble. He enjoyed the experience so much that he is returning this summer. He also found Mecklenburg County Teen Court in his search for things to do and continues to participate in that as well.

“It was very interesting and it was very helpful especially in this day and age,” said Huggins. “It’s beneficial to obtain that knowledge and to be able to turn it into useful skills.”

Jessica Davis, the community support and disability access coordinator for the court camp, says the initiative has plenty of activities to keep campers engaged.

“Court camp is not just for those kids that are interested in becoming lawyers,” she said. “We’ve had kids that are interested in becoming detectives, crime scene investigators, court reporters, clerks, and probation and parole officers.”

Camp begins with a visit to Central Piedmont Community College’s Merancas Campus, the criminal justice department hub. Students get to see mock crime scenes and theorize about what might have happened, learn more about CPCC’s criminal justice program and visit crime scene investigation classrooms. On the first day, students receive case information for a mock trial at the end of the week. They spend the week learning the rule of law and examine witness statements and evidence in order to prepare for trial. Parents are encouraged to attend as campers engage in their very own trial in front of a real district court judge.

“I enjoyed being able to be one of the attorneys that had to defend my client,” said Marlen Navarro, a 2018 camp participant. “I proved that he was innocent and I really enjoyed that. It had a great outcome, I was glad I was able to do that and we won.”

Navarro, a Garinger High graduate, left the camp sure of what she wanted to study in college and is now on track to earn her associate’s degree in criminal justice at CPCC.

Along with the mock trial and visit to Merancas, students meet with lawyers, judges, probation and parole offices, court reporters and clerks.

“Students walk away with a newfound respect for the court system,” Davis said. “One thing that will be new this year is that we are incorporating a session on Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, which is a program that was founded by our Clerk of Court Elisa Chinn-Gary and Judge [Louis A.] Trosch. This looks at explicit biases and how our perceptions of people and things have shaped the way people are treated in our legal system and so, that will happen on the first day on Monday as well, when we get back from CPCC. But, the students will get a taste of what it’s like in our court system overall.”


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