‘Being more observant helps me see how others my age can do what’s right.’
“I love learning about the government and the way our country works. I was taking a law class when I was in the ninth grade. My teacher knew the person running the Nassau County Peer Diversion Court. I waited a few months after applying, and then found out I was accepted to be a part of it! The program is run for kids under 18 at the actual Hempstead courts through the Nassau County Probation Court. We learned how to become advocates for the kids that come through the program because they know what they did is wrong and they’re trying to learn from their mistakes.
If teenagers are considering joining a program like this, I would tell them to just go for it.
“We don’t see any violent cases that have weapons; maybe somebody stole something little and they were caught, or they might have gotten in a small fight. We don’t prove guilt or innocence. After their trials, they get to come back, sit on the jury, listen to other people’s cases and help themselves learn from it. Sometimes they get 30 hours of community service, or they might have to write letters of apology. The punishments are really just ways for them to learn from their mistakes.
“The program is very exciting, and I have learned a lot from doing it. I love to help people, and it’s really beneficial to see these kids come out better people. They see how to do the right thing. I feel like I have personally become a better person because of being an advocate, too. Now I pay attention to more things around me. Being more observant helps me see how others my age can do what’s right.
“I go to East Meadow High School, but the advocates are from all over Nassau County. The respondents are also from all over Nassau County. Once you graduate from the program as an advocate, you can even come back to see cases, and you can learn more about how the system works. I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but now I know I definitely want to be in the law field, maybe as a judge or an attorney. If teenagers are considering joining a program like this, I would tell them to just go for it. When I joined, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it, but now, after doing it a number of months, I really love it.”