One of our esteemed recent graduates and San Jose Peer Court advocate, Christina Adames, shares her experiences and accomplishments working with the Lincoln Law School Peer Court/Mentoring Team of Santa Clara County.
- How long have you been participating with Peer Court?
I attended my first Peer Court Training at Lincoln in January 2012 as a mentor and have volunteered every spare moment I have had for the last year and a half.
- What is your role in the program?
When I first began volunteering with Peer Court in January of 2012, I was a mentor to the teens. My goal was to help provide the teen volunteers with a basic understanding of restorative justice, help the teen volunteers perform their roles as attorneys, clerks, bailiffs and members of the jury, and help instill a healthy attitude toward authority. I found throughout the past year and a half, my role in Peer Court has been so much more than a “hearing” mentor. I feel I have been able to provide the teens with a healthy female role model and someone to look up to.
After the initial Peer Court Training in January 2012, I contacted Deanna Burneikis, who had recently been asked to take over trainings. I told Deanna I wanted to help develop Lincoln’s Peer Court Training Program. From there, I helped develop our monthly trainings; I would put together the trainings and circulate them around for approval from the other training facilitators. Additionally, I helped develop Lincoln Law School’s Peer Court Training Program “Honor’s Course”, which is now being offered at Lincoln for credit. My goal was to come up with a way to teach our teens about our judicial system through life lessons and ways that would inspire them.
Soon thereafter, I found myself inspired. I began seeking donations from the community in support of Peer Court. I found myself forming relationships with the San Jose Earthquakes, Soccer Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Robinson & Wood, Inc., Santa Clara County La Raza, the San Francisco 49ers, Starbucks, Office Depot, and many more organizations that jumped at the opportunity to help.
Together with All-Star San Jose Earthquakes’ player, Justin Morrow, and with the help of Santa Clara County Probation, we set up and executed a “Recruitment Tour” throughout San Jose Unified School District where Justin went to different high schools and promoted participation in the Peer Court Program. Justin Morrow has become our “unofficial” spokesperson. I set up an interview with CreaTV featuring Justin Morrow and his participation with Peer Court, which was aired on Channel 30.
Additionally, I have put together the following fundraisers that have raised approximately $3,800 for Lincoln Law School’s Peer Court Training Program for 2012-2013:
(1) Soccer Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Annual Dinner: Lincoln Law School’s Peer Court Training Program was one of three featured charities at the dinner.
(2) Patxi’s Pizza: 10% of all sales at Patxi’s on March 25, 2013 were donated to Lincoln Law School’s Peer Court Training Program.
(3) Robinson & Wood, Inc.: Robinson & Wood, Inc. hosted a fundraiser on May 7, 2013 featuring Justin Morrow with 100% of the proceeds donated to Lincoln Law School’s Peer Court Training Program.
- What interested you about the program, why did you want to be a part of it?
I realized early on that Peer Court inspires the teens that are involved. Peer Court empowers our youth by teaching them about our judicial system, allowing them to actively participate in our community, instilling confidence in them and inspiring them to stay in school. In addition, Peer Court sends a strong message to our youth that, although young, they have the power to change the course of someone’s life, including their own. My greatest accomplishment through all my work with Peer Court has been the relationships that I have formed with the teens that volunteer. I truly believe that Lincoln’s involvement has saved some of these teens’ lives. I realized that a lot of what our teens needed was a little encouragement and a lot of positive affirmation! Some of these kids had never heard, “I am proud of you” or “I am so impressed”.
- How has being a student at Lincoln helped you in your position at Peer Court?
Being a student at Lincoln has helped me in the following ways:
(1) The support is incredible. Dean Moless has allowed me to run with Peer Court, which has been the most instrumental thing he could have done. I have never worked well with boundaries! To me, boundaries and rules = a ceiling and being the feminist that I am, ceilings and I do not “click”. By trusting that I would represent Lincoln and its involvement with the upmost respect, Dean Moless has allowed me to jump on opportunities, make quick decisions, and take all of my ideas and put them into actions.
(2) Lincoln’s Connections! Lincoln has the best alumni in Santa Clara County! I have been fortunate enough to have the support of Lincoln alumi and Santa Clara County Law Raza Association’s president, Patricia D. Castorena. Addititionally, I have been able to work closely with Lincoln Alumni and County Supervisor, Dave Cortese, on Peer Court projects. My association alone with Peer Court has opened many, many office doors.
(3) Place to hold Trainings: As this program is more than just a hearing for first time offenders, Lincoln’s involvement has played a large part in the progress and success of the program. In addition to teaching the teen volunteers and the offenders how to conduct a Peer Court Hearing, our trainings also strive to promote self-esteem and motivation for self-improvement, which is essential to interrupting the developing pattern of criminal behavior of the juvenile offenders. This is the overall goal of the Peer Court Program.
- What is one of your proudest moments from working with Peer Court?
One of my proudest moments from working with Peer Court has been working with one of our teens, Vidi. Vidi is the first person who introduced herself to me during my first peer court hearing. As the months went by and I became more involved with the program, I became closer with the teens, one of them being Vidi. When I met her, Vidi told me that she was failing out of school and was now at a continuation school. I constantly told Vidi about my college experience at DeAnza and then at San Diego State. I encouraged her and told her how proud I was of her that she never missed a hearing or a Peer Court Training. Quickly, Vidi brought her grades up, spoke to counselors and got herself back into her normal High School. She is now on track to graduate this year and is going to college.
Earlier this year, however, Vidi discovered that she had a brain tumor. The doctors told Vidi that she needed to eat healthier, take medicine that they prescribed and they would continue to monitor her to decide whether she would undergo brain surgery. Instead of allowing this news to get in between her and going to college, Vidi used this opportunity write a winning essay called “The Turn Around” where she received a college scholarship and was asked to give a speech at different high schools about her experience.
After reading her essay, I emailed Vidi:
“When I started volunteering for this program, I wanted to find a teen who wanted help, who was inspired by the process, and who would do a complete ‘turn around’, as you called it in your speech. You are the first person that greeted me at my very first peer court hearing. You were the first person who explained what peer court was to me. You are the one person that I found in this program that I want to be life long friends with. You are going to do great things in life… I promise. I can see it! Continue to learn, continue to self-reflect, and continue to care more about others than you care about yourself. You have something very special about you and I look forward to watching you grow.”
Vidi is my proudest moment.