On Wednesday, the other summer associates and I had the opportunity to teach a group of middle school students the relationship between freedom of speech under the First Amendment and cyber bullying.
The small group of students visited the firm through the Breakthrough Miami program, which Sara Herald is deeply involved in. Breakthrough Miami is an academic enrichment program that uses student-teaching-student models to ensure that young children attending under-resourced schools still have access to educational opportunities. The program has a 100% high school graduation rate as well an over 90% college attendance rate for the young students involved.
After breakfast and a tour of the office, the students were ready for the lesson. It began with a discussion on what the First Amendment means to them. Their responses included things like being able to express their opinions and the freedom to say how they feel. After, we talked about three landmark First Amendment cases that focused on freedom of speech at school. We then went over some hypothetical situations to determine whether a principal could discipline a student for something said online, or whether the comment fell under freedom of speech.
When the lesson was over, the students were able to ask us questions. One student asked what kind of law we were interested in practicing. Another asked what it takes to become a lawyer. It was nice to see that many students raised their hand when asked who was interested in going to law school.
During lunch, we were able to talk to the students about their interests and goals. Sports and video games was the general topic of conversation at my table. But when someone asked the students what kind of work they were interested in doing after graduating I was surprised but pleased to hear their responses. The students spoke about careers in the technology sector, as well as their interest in becoming engineers. One student was interested in pursuing marine biology and expressed a genuine desire to learn more about science. Knowing that this is something these middle school students have not only just briefly considered but have actually invested time in thinking about was encouraging. I was also impressed by the questions they asked and their responses to the lesson we worked on. At the end of the event one student even initiated handshakes with each one of us and thanked us for our time, which is certainly not something I had the mindfulness to do in middle school.
In actuality, I learned a lot from the experience and it’s nice to know that programs like Breakthrough Miami exist. I think it’s important for young attorneys to remember that service and community engagement in any degree and in any aspect can be both impactful and rewarding. Finding a passion for a good cause early on in your career can spark your interest in an area of pro bono work that you may not have even known existed.