Verdict is unanimous: Legal internships provide solid evidence of nurturing attorneys

Even HISD’s own Assistant General Counsel Izzy Anderson is a product of the CIS program

Until this summer, Davis High School student Shantelle Martinez had never set foot in a real courtroom. Now, the rising senior is planning for a career in criminal justice—and all because of her experience in an eight-week legal internship program this summer coordinated by Communities in Schools (CIS), in partnership with the Houston Bar Association.

“I never really considered it until now, but I really liked the experience,” said Shantelle. “My teachers are always telling me I should be a lawyer, because I argue a lot.”

As a part of the internship, Martinez and about two dozen of her peers (most of whom attend HISD schools) gained valuable insight into the legal system this summer by working at law firms, visiting with prominent attorneys and judges, and even participating in a mock trial that was based on a real court case.

“The case was about an 18-year-old boy who shot and killed his stepfather,” explained Idalis Villegas-Salinas, a rising senior from Milby High School who served as lead prosecutor. “The question was whether he did it in self-defense or if it was murder, since the stepfather told him, ‘I’m going to get rid of you once and for all,’ the night before, and he had been regularly beating the boy and his mother and sister.”

Idalis, who also plans to become a lawyer, said that she took the internship very seriously, and really appreciated the solid experience she was gaining. “I helped an attorney get ready for a case and learned how to set up a binder for an actual court date,” she explained. “It makes me feel like an important person.”

But the 20-year internship program isn’t just influencing members of HISD’s Class of 2015. The district’s own Assistant General Counsel Izzy Anderson is also a graduate of the program, and it helped lead her to where she is today.

“The internship let me personally witness how women navigated their careers as attorneys and the amount of preparation such a career requires,” said Anderson. “That experience reinforced my decision to attend graduate school.”

To learn more about how HISD is using similar arrangements to connect the classroom with careers, please visit the Linked Learning website.

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