When Heena Trivedi first arrived at Suffolk Law, she would not have guessed that there was any connection between the demands of her law school career and the needs of local middle school students. But her participation in a new partnership--the first of its kind in the nation--between Suffolk Law and Boston-based nonprofit organization Citizen Schools opened her mind to the possibilities of public service.
Last fall, the third-year law student began tutoring a local eighth-grade student named Demar on a weekly basis, meeting with him for several hours after school to work on his writing skills. Their commitment quickly paid off: Demar's teachers recognized a dramatic improvement in his behavior, and his grades began to rise.
"The experience with Citizen Schools expanded my knowledge of ways in which lawyers can give back to the community regardless of the type of law they choose to practice," Trivedi says.
Citizen Schools is a national network of after-school education programs connecting low-income students in sixth through eighth grades with adult mentors. Through the network, the young students participate in apprenticeships or hands-on learning projects where they pick up skills like managing a stock portfolio, building a website, mastering international recipes, or lobbying for environmental causes. Middle school students who participate in Citizen Schools demonstrate stronger attendance records, reduced disciplinary incidents, higher standardized test scores, and a greater likelihood of placement in college-track high schools.
Suffolk Law is the first university-level school in the country to become involved with Citizen Schools. The Suffolk Law mentors primarily serve as a team of writing coaches, helping their students with school assignments and high school admissions essays.
"The program is by all measures tremendously successful," says Susan Prosnitz, executive director of Suffolk Law's Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service. Prosnitz has worked closely with the program for several years, first as an apprentice teacher and currently as a member of the organization's Council of Champions, a peer group of leaders in the Boston area who offer support and visibility to the organization.
When she first advertised the new opportunity to the Suffolk Law community last fall, students and faculty alike jumped at the chance to volunteer; today there is a waiting list to get involved.
"I think this says a lot about the caliber of students who are coming to Suffolk Law," Prosnitz says. "It's a pretty extraordinary commitment, considering the time constraints of law students."
Trivedi, an executive board member of Suffolk Law's Student Bar Association, was unable to formally continue the program this spring, but she continues to meet with Demar on an informal basis to help him with his schoolwork.
"This partnership is good for the eighth graders, but it's just as exciting and rewarding for us law students," Trivedi says.
ALUMNI PROFILESPaul Cherecwich Jr.