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    Law and Leadership Institute: Striving to be the "Shiniest Crayon in the Box"

    More than 30 students could be found around Keller Hall this summer, learning about the law, and themselves, as part of the Law and Leadership Summer Institute, a five-week intensive program in its second year at Dayton Law.

    Students spent time in the classroom becoming more familiar with legal issues and the justice system while also working to improve their study habits and reading and writing skills. The goal of the program is to establish and sustain a "pipeline" into higher education and the legal profession for disadvantaged students from under-represented backgrounds and areas. Dayton was one of six sites in Ohio participating in the program this summer.

    But while it's important that they learn about the law and effective study habits, they also learn more about themselves.

    "I want to be the shiniest crayon in the box," said one student, Destiney Perkins, a ninth grader at the Dayton Early College Academy.

    Destiney said the program gave her a "confidence boost" and helped her improve her study habits, communication skills and body language. "If you're not dressed appropriately, you're not ready for business," Destiney said. "If you don't have your books, you're not ready to work."

    Another ninth grader, Davina Dennis, who attends Stivers School for the Arts, said she thought she would be reading a lot of books. And while students did read and do homework, she noted that they met many people around the School of Law and in the legal profession in Dayton.

    One of the highlights of the program was a visit by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Eric Brown, who met with students in the Heck Courtroom. "Do what you love," he told the students. "Do what you're good at."

    This was the second year Dayton Law participated in the program. Last summer, Professor Dennis Greene directed the program, while this year, the program was managed by Maureen Anderson, who served as the academic director, and Craig Thornhill, who served as the on-site student coordinator.

    This year, 36 students participated in the program, including 20 rising ninth graders and 16 10th graders, who also enrolled in the program last year. Law students Angela Blackburn, Arkesha Sellers, George Asante and Serah Siemann served as instructors. In addition, public school teachers provided instructional assistance by collaborating with the law student instructors on lesson planning and classroom management.

    The ninth-grade course concluded with a mock trial competition that gave participants a chance to test their skills in front of practicing judges, lawyers and family members. The 10th-grade curriculum was complemented by mentoring, test preparation and paid internship opportunities at local law offices.

    Classes were taught in a pseudo-law school format. The curriculum included age- and ability-appropriate instruction in criminal law and court procedure, as well as life skills course work, including conflict resolution, public speaking and self-awareness.

    "The life-skills component of the LLI curriculum is designed to prepare students to embrace leadership roles within their growing spheres of influence as well as to successfully navigate the social challenges that often confront economically disadvantaged youths," said Anderson, who is an assistant professor and public access services and reference librarian at the School.

    Thornhill said he was impressed with the students' thirst for learning or the law. "They really were able to learn so much about the law, a judge's role, a clerk's role," said Thornhill, who is an acquisitions assistant in the Zimmerman Law Library. The students also improved their reading, writing and research skills and learned to how to prepare cogent arguments.

    "They've been given tools," Thornhill said, "and they will use them well."

    Members of the legal profession volunteered as speakers and hosted field trips to courtrooms and law offices on at least a weekly basis. The field trips included visits to the offices of Sebaly, Shillito, & Dyer and LexisNexis; Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas and Kettering Municipal Court; and the Montgomery County Juvenile Detention Center.

    The program isn't limited to the summer. During the academic year, students meet on Saturdays several times a month to work on their writing and research skills, interact with the legal community, prepare for the SAT and ACT, and learn about colleges. Each student has a mentor who is either a lawyer or law student.

    "I enjoyed watching the students grow and change over the course of the summer program," Anderson said.