Over the last few months, University of Kentucky law students have lived and breathed StreetLaw — a brand-new student organization at the UK College of Law dedicated to teaching high school students and members of the Lexington community about law and the legal system.
Working under the supervision of faculty advisor Cortney Lollar, assistant professor of law at the UK College of Law, and local attorneys Carmen Ross and Lindsay Perdue, UK Law students have utilized their legal education to teach real-life lessons in law and government to high school students, empowering them to go forward and make positive changes in the community, while also inspiring them to consider a future legal career. Lessons taught include criminal and civil law, employment law, housing law and family law.
The idea for StreetLaw at UK came from the national nonprofit organization that began in 1972, when a small group of Georgetown University Law Center students developed an experimental curriculum to teach District of Columbia high school students about basic legal principles. It was Lollar’s vision to establish such a program at UK Law and use it to make a difference in the Lexington community.
Following Lollar’s initial announcement of StreetLaw at UK, 60 law students quickly jumped at the idea to join. Bryan Station High School and Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy for Excellence in Lexington agreed to be host schools.
“The administrations at both schools recognized the value of the StreetLaw program for their students and were willing to provide both their students and our students the opportunity to further their education in a very hands-on way,” Lollar said. “The law students and the high school students both learned a lot from each other over the course of the semester.”
In December, the organization held elections to establish an executive board. The elected board members then drafted and approved a constitution and provided training to certify 30 student teachers. With strengths, diversity and law class variation in mind, student teachers were paired off to complement each other in the classroom. After modernizing problems contained in each lesson, student teachers gave trial presentations to coordinators and volunteer attorneys who provided valuable feedback and direction.
UK Law students successfully taught 20 lessons this past semester, 10 at each of the two participating high schools, with 10 to 12 students at each lesson. At the end of the 10-week period, each participating high school student was presented with a certificate at an awards celebration in recognition of their accomplishment.
Looking ahead to the next school year, the organization is planning to continue the initiative, with the hope of adding a third high school into the program.
“Our goal was to make a small difference,” said third-year law student Thomas Wall, “but the impact this unforgettable experience had on us as law students was profound.”