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Hartford Students Thrive In Law Academy

Sebastian Lombardi

July 14, 2010

I have had the privilege of living in a few different towns in the Greater Hartford region, so I know all too well that folks from neighboring towns sometimes live and breathe in a vacuum.

People are understandably busy and focused on what's right in front of them. As a law student, I know many professionals in the legal field are similarly focused and sometimes distracted from what's going on in their greater community. We live in an era of ever-evolving globalization, but we too often ignore our own communities.

We have a responsibility to refocus our priorities and to support and empower our communities and their very best resource, our youth. Committed partnerships between differing groups provide an opportunity to engage within our communities. One example of a successful community partnership in action is the University of Connecticut School of Law/Robinson & Cole LLP Summer Law Institute at the Law and Government Academy at Hartford Public High School. UConn Law, Robinson & Cole, and two nonprofit groups, Capital Workforce Partners and the Urban League, have come together in support of the future of Hartford youth.

During this time of year, many students, teachers and parents across the state are thinking about summer activities, not academics. At the Law and Government Academy, the educational experiences continue. Over the next four weeks, a group of rising sophomores will spend part of their summer vacation learning about their constitutional rights, diving into the legislative process, visiting the state Capitol, and preparing for a mock trial in which they will act as trial attorneys. These experiences are supplemented with real-work opportunities in subsequent internships at law firms, the General Assembly, legal assistance and other community organizations.

As the Hartford schools implement educational reforms aimed at improving results, we all should be supportive of providing students with the opportunity to participate in this kind of program. Inaugurated two summers ago, the Summer Law Institute is a bridge program intended to introduce students to foundational concepts of law and government and to inspire them to consider law-related careers. The institute also develops mentoring relationships between the high school students and UConn Law students, relationships that exist long after the program is complete.

In the program's second year, I was fortunate to work as a UConn Law teaching fellow and I learned first-hand a valuable lesson. Each and every day, I witnessed and experienced something truly transformative. I worked with students in the classroom and joined them on what, for many, would be their first visit to a college. I watched them gain confidence and perform brilliantly in a mock trial or a mock legislature. For these students, the community partnership succeeded in supporting and empowering them. Such an experience is a reminder, a very clear reminder, that we all have a stake in our state's future.

Hartford and its surrounding towns have the potential for great success in the coming years. But it is the responsibility of those with the expertise and resources, those with passion and patience and those who truly care about their neighbors, to invest in their communities and to be partners with others who are willing. In the midst of all the cynicism and doubt, coming together through partnerships that offer Hartford high school students valuable experience and guidance is a way to escape the vacuum and to ensure a brighter future. The future of Hartford, and for that matter, our state's future, is ultimately dependent on enabling and educating our youth.

Sebastian Lombardi, 29, of Hartford is entering his fourth year as an evening student at the University of Connecticut School of Law and is a member of the Law & Government Academy's School Governance Council at Hartford Public High School.

The Courant invites writers younger than 30 to write essays of 600 words or less containing strong views. E-mail your submission to freshtalk@courant.com, with your full name, hometown, daytime phone number, age and occupation.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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