Diversity Pipeline Project encourages youth to consider careers in law

By Alberto Rodriguez
October 4, 2010

Seventh and eighth grade students at Cloves C. Campbell, Snr., Elementary School, in South Phoenix, waited eagerly as volunteers from the State Bar of Arizona's Diversity Pipeline Project entered their classrooms to kick-off the 2010-2011 school year program.

The volunteers, four attorneys and eight law students, entered their assigned classrooms and were greeted with excited whispers and smiling faces. Not wasting any time, volunteers dove right into introductions with their first activity to follow.

Students from Mrs. Withers' eighth grade class were already familiar with the program, since they were introduced to it last year as seventh graders. Deontae recounts his experience and says, "I learned so much last year. It was a cool experience where I learned how hard lawyers really have to work." He added, "The court room experience was fun too. It was just like TV. I was a juror and had to decide if the person was guilty or innocent."

Like many children his age, 13-year-old Deontae has a dream of becoming a professional athlete. However, exposure to the volunteer law students, attorneys, and the legal profession has increased his desire to get a good education, whether or not he becomes an attorney.

Seventh grade students in Ms. Follmer's class quietly observed volunteers Heather Chase, Beth Bruno, and Belen Olmedo as they began to present the curriculum. Seeing that the volunteers were engaging, lively and entertaining, the students felt at ease and gladly participated in the first of many activities, the Round Robin.

A shy Alondra described her experience with the Diversity Pipeline Project as exciting and fun. She said she enjoys these types of activities because they give her a break from the day-to-day curriculum. "I think it's important to pay attention because they're teaching us stuff we didn't know about the law," states the seventh grade student. "My favorite activities were the poster project and the Round Robin," she adds.

Ms. Follmer talked about the program's benefits. So far, she said, the students have taken a greater interest in the legal profession. She believes it's the right age - seventh and eighth grade - for the students to begin thinking about their careers.

Volunteers visit the students at Campbell every other month to facilitate activities in a curriculum provided by the State Bar's Diversity Department and AZ Foundation for Legal Servies and Education. Attorney volunteers include: Clarence Matherson, Sonia Martinez, Mandi Karvis and Heather Chase. Student volunteers from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and the Phoenix School of Law include: Samantha Cruz, Adrian Paredes, Suwini Foe, Amy Owen, Mike Shin, Beth Bruno, and Belen Olmedo.

The Diversity Pipeline Project aims to bring together Arizona law firms, educational institutions and community organizations to encourage the youth around our state, especially in under-represented populations, to consider careers in the legal profession.