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CHS Youth Court Recognized by Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies

CHS youth court students Cheltenham High School’s Youth Court program was honored a Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies (PCSS) President’s Award for illustrating how a traditional civics class can be transformed into a model of restorative justice while making the social studies come alive. Social Studies teacher Jen Pollack accepted the honor at the 65th annual Pennsylvania Conference for the Social Studies on October 18.

Cheltenham students and educators involved in the two youth court classes learn how the justice system works and then apply those lessons to helping shape the climate at their school. According to PCSS, “community partners and strong support from the School Board and school administration showcase a model program that every school in the Commonwealth might look to emulate.”

On the second day of the conference, 15 Youth Court students and alumni led a workshop session for Commonwealth educators and policy makers. Using a scenario they developed from their experiences this past year, the students demonstrated a youth court session. The scenario focused on a student who often fell asleep in class and was frustrated due to low performance in his math class. Jazire Parker played the role of the respondent, the student who has been referred to the court; Jin Yu Gammage played the judge; Zayna Jaco was the bailiff; Laura Darling served as the jury foreperson; and Michela Hand presented as the youth advocate; and Sebastian Pilecki-Campbell, Zachary Gaffin, Juan Garcia-Vargas, Christopher Kamara, Ozioma Ottih, Tyree Pleasant, Hannah Reich, Tiana Richardson, Nia Turner and Summia Wise played the jurors. After the “trial,” students participated in a question and answer session.

The session highlighted how youth courts can be embedded in social studies classes by focusing on the Cheltenham High School “Civics” model program with Cheltenham High School social studies teachers Mark Hoff, Michael Ogbueh and Pollack.

“Our students clearly demonstrated a level of mastery for the processes used in youth court and the ability to communicate with a real audience,” said CHS Social Studies Chair Mark Hoff, who, along with Pollack and Ogbueh, acknowledged Leslie Jones from the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office, district judge Christopher Cerski, and PA Bar Association Pro Bono Coordinator David Trevaskis in helping launch youth court. ”We could not have been prouder of the ways in which our students represented Cheltenham today.”