Community Service Spring 2021

Community Service Committee’s High School Speaker Series – Spring 2021

Bronx High School of Law, Government & Justice

School Partners: Julissa Gomez-McGhie, Assistant Principal and Basil Manolakos, J.D., Civil & Criminal Law Dept.

Hon. Llinét Rosado – January 14, 2021

Reflections: Speaking to students is one of the ways that I, as a judge, can continue to give back to my community! Speaking to the students of the School of Law Gov’t and Justice was particularly special to me as it is a Bronx School. I have already received emails from the students seeking to shadow me and this just adds to my belief that we have a duty to reach back and propel the next generations of leaders forward. Judge Mallafré has been instrumental in making this work and I am indebted to her for the experience.

Hon. Laura Visitacion-Lewis (ret.) – January 20, 2021

Reflections: Speaking with the high school students was a very rewarding experience. They were attentive, interested and bright, and their questions were all on point. I stressed to the students that reading is what develops the skill of writing, and that together these are tools that will ultimately lead to success in anything they chose to do. I explained that this was one of the lessons that was embedded into me by my largely self-taught filipino immigrant father and my Puerto Rican mother who was immersed in community work.

Hon. Joanne Quiñones – February 26, 2021

Reflections: For me being a judge is not a job, it is a calling. With that calling comes the privilege and honor to be in a position to reach out to young people and to introduce them to the wondrous, wonderful world of the law so it was my distinct pleasure to have an opportunity to speak to the sophomores at the Bronx LGJ. Prior to my virtual visit, their teacher explained that the students were soon going to cover criminal law and were excited to have the opportunity to ask their “many questions” to a judge who handled criminal cases. The students made me earn my keep that early Friday morning! They were engaged and engaging. They asked thoughtful, impactful questions about all aspects of criminal law including jury selection, sentencing and wrongful convictions. They made insightful comments about the effect that biases, both implicit and explicit, have on the fair administration of justice. I left my virtual visit with a sense of security and confidence — our world is in good hands — these future leaders of tomorrow are READY!

Hon. Lumarie Maldonado-Cruz – April 7, 2021

Reflections: I was truly impressed with the curiosity and engagement from the participating students. They were inquisitive and attentive. It was indeed a pleasure to answer their questions and to provide them with positive feedback. It is important that we continue to inspire our children and encourage them to dream, to seek out help from mentors and to not be discouraged. I would gladly make myself available again.

Hon. Lourdes M. Ventura – May 27, 2021

Reflections: My sincere thanks to the LJA for providing me with the forum to engage with students and share my love of the law and experiences. The pandemic has certainly assisted in allowing us to quickly readjust how we continue mentoring opportunities and LJA seized the moment. I hope to give what was given to me – planting the seed for a possible career in the law, providing tools and the necessary knowledge, and helping our younger generation believe that they can succeed no matter what life throws their way. I was pleasantly surprised by all of the questions that were prepared by the students in advance of our virtual chat and how they are already mapping out their future. I hope to continue being a resource for our youth and cannot wait to see them appearing before me, arguing cases, in a not too distant future!

Brooklyn Collaborative Studies School

School Partners: Taron Williams, Restorative Practices Coordinator/Director of Internships and Imani Matthews, Assistant Principal

Hon. Connie Mallafré Mélendez – January 29, 2021

Reflections: Speaking to high school students proved to be so much more gratifying that I had expected. As I spoke about the paths life took me through and explained why I made the decisions I made, the students’ comments made it clear to me that they face the same issues we faced. Their search for guidance and answers came through in their questions and comments. My conversation with them took on new meaning and urgency. As Latino judges, our accomplishments and stories prove to the students that it can be done – not only in the legal field, but also in their chosen career. Knowing that I may have positively impacted even one teen gave a thrill that stayed with me for days.

Judith S. Kaye High School

School Partners: Andrew Brown, Principal; Olinda Marin, School Business Manager and Noemi Cruz, Social Worker.

Hon. Wilma Guzman – January 29, 2021

Reflections: It was a wonderful experience interacting with both the staff and students. The students were receptive to my personal journey, my interaction with the community while on the bench and the court system. At the conclusion, they asked interesting questions. It is a beautiful way of empowering our youth and future leaders. I would do it again and again!

Mount Vernon High School

School Partners: Ronald Gonzalez, Ed. D, Head of School; Eric D. Brand, Ed. D., Head of Humanities; Clinton Keegan, Social Studies Dept. and Tiffany Izzo, Social Studies Dept.

Hon. Nichelle A. Johnson – February 11, 2021

Reflections: I was so pleased to participate in this program and was in awe of the number of students that actually signed in that early to join us. So kudos to the teachers and administrators, who I am sure motivated the students to get on. And thanks to Judge Mallafré for coordinating everything and making it easy, as all I had to do was “show up”. I was delighted to represent the LJA and speak to our youth about my journey of becoming a lawyer, then a judge. The young people and the professional staff were attentive and made me feel that my story and the lessons I learned were valuable. I would encourage all of our members to participate. I promise it will be a rewarding experience and will give you a sense of pride that possibly you could have a positive impact on a young person trying to find their way. Remember, “to whom much is given, much is required.”

Hon. Mary Ann Brigantti – May 18, 2021

Reflections: Inspiring students with positive narrative of life experiences and overcoming challenges inspires me. An encouraging word always has the power and potential to break the fear of the unknown and fuel the dream inside of us.

Richmond Hill High School

School Partners: Jeff Newman, Assistant Principal of Social Studies & Art; James Meaney, Assistant Principal of Science Dept./9th Grade Academy; and Paul Fisher, ISS Teacher & Dean of Students

Hon. Enedina Pilar Sanchez – April 7, 2021

Reflections: Event demonstrated that sharing information about the judiciary and the work we do is much appreciated and informative. Most students do not have contact with judges or the judicial system. It was a pleasure to share, listen and answer questions.

Hon. John Howard-Algarin – April 27, 2021

Reflections: The endeavor, which aimed to impart to the audience some insight concerning the diverse make up of jurists and what is required to become a judge, was met with marked enthusiasm. The students asked insightful questions, some of which reflected stereotypical notions of who judges are. One such question, for example, sought to know if we all belonged to country clubs. I chuckled responding that, while that may be true for some of my colleagues, “I was born and raised in the Boogie-down Bronx, and I continue to live in and love my community.” Overall, I view such events as critically important to developing within budding minds a broader understanding of what they can achieve, regardless of how humble their individual beginnings may have been. The philosophy behind the session is quite simple: if they can see it, they can be it. I look forward to the next opportunity to let them see and explore what they can be!