5, 2011 - Bolivia, NC - Brunswick County students
believe in second chances.
As volunteers in the Teen and Peer Court programs,
students serve as defense and prosecuting attorneys,
clerks, bailiffs, and jurors to determine sentencing
for first-time juvenile offenders who have admitted
to their crimes.
"The process is such an eye-opener for the
defendants. They realize the seriousness of their
crime and, by the time they finish their sentences,
they know they won't do those things again," says
Allison Brown, a junior at West Brunswick High
School who began her legal career in the first Peer
Court at Shallotte Middle in 2006. "I wanted to
become a teacher, but now I want to be a lawyer,
then a judge, and maybe a politician," she adds.
WBHS senior Matthew Emerson has similar plans. He's
also in the fifth year of his legal training. "I'll
be going to UNCW then Campbell Law School," he says
crediting the "interesting hands-on opportunity"to
see what being a lawyer is like for his career
The interaction between the defendants and their
classmates is a key to the success of the program.
The volunteers believe that given this second
chance, the first-time offender will become a
one-time offender. Students serve their sentence and
have the opportunity to go on to achieve great
things with a clean record. "Achievement is not
something that's given; it's something you have to
earn," explains Matthew. Teen and Peer Courts give
students the opportunity to achieve the trust and
respect of their fellow classmates.
Teen Court is held at the County Court House and
Peer Court is at each of the Middle Schools. They
are partnership programs between Communities In
Schools and the District Attorney's Office, started
in Brunswick County in 1999 with the generous
financial and volunteer support of the Shallotte
Rotary, South Brunswick Islands Rotary and the
Southport-Oak Island Kiwanis Clubs.