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Volunteers Benefit From Teen & Peer Court

Matthew Emerson & Allison BrownDecember 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 goals.

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.



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