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Christine Morganti
(505) 797-6028

Young Lawyers Guide Youth in Making Smart Choices

Albuquerque, N.M. – Santa Fe youngsters had the unique opportunity to tell lawyers what they would do in situations regarding cheating, destroying property, bullying and teasing. Attorneys from the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of New Mexico presented the program “Junior Judges” to children in four summer youth programs throughout Santa Fe on July 9. The program is designed to empower youngsters to be confident enough to make the right choices in the face of peer pressure, to help children become aware of how their actions affect others, and to reinforce how making the right choice will ultimately have a positive impact.

Attorney Tina Cruz from the Narvaez Law Firm in Albuquerque got the attention of more than 60 children at the Monica Roybal Youth Center. Cruz relayed personal experiences and showed videos of scenarios in which children were faced with difficult situations. She then engaged the children in discussions about what they might do in such situations and what the consequences of those decisions might be. In one scenario a child wrote on a bathroom wall.

“What would happen if you wrote on a wall here at the youth center?” asked Cruz.

“I’d be in big trouble and my parents or I would have to pay for it,” answered one of the children.

“I might not be able to come back the rest of the summer,” responded another.

Cruz asked how they would feel if they had to miss out on the summer fun and field trips. She explained that the parents would be required by rules called city ordinances to pay the fee to clean the wall.

In another scenario a girl drew a picture which overemphasized the “geeky” features of another girl. She taped the picture to the girl’s locker.

“Did she break any rules?” asked Cruz.

“No, she was just jealous,” replied one of the kids.

“You tease someone when they have something you want and can’t have,” said another.

Cruz mentioned the Golden Rule and explained that teasing sounds funny but hurts feelings. She reminded the children that they always have people to talk to in situations like these: teachers, counselors, principles and especially parents.

One child recommended that someone being teased should, “Talk to the person who is teasing and ask them to stop.”

Using the videos and engaging students in discussion, Cruz talked to the children about conflict resolution, the importance of rules and laws, making smart choices, and even explained the Bernie Madoff situation as an example of how everyone, even adults, can be harmed by those making poor decisions.

One child asked why the DVD didn’t give answers to the questions and Cruz replied that she knew they were bright students and would be able to come up with the smart answers that they gave during the session.

The State Bar of New Mexico was organized in 1886 and is composed of more than 8500 members. Its purposes are to aid the courts in administering justice and preserving the rule of law, and to foster a high standard of integrity and competence within the legal profession.