Law Students Teach Civics to High School Students

Marshall-Brennan Project
Jacob Vallejos (`14) and Tyler McCormick (`13) lead a class in Constitutional principles for high school students.

The University of New Mexico School of Law chapter of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project has begun its second year, with four students chosen to teach civics at the Native American Community Academy ( NACA), a charter high school located next door to the law school. 

The four UNM law students – Tracy Goodluck (`14), Jenessa Trillo-Reyes (`14), Tyler McCormick (`13) and Jacob Vallejos (`14) – are teaching junior and senior NACA high school students. 

"We are truly excited about this opportunity and realize that the impact of the Marshall-Brennan program will have long-term rewards for our students and community, said NACA Principal Kara Bobroff.

The UNM law students are equally excited to enter the classroom and work with their new students. They recognize the value of this young program, not only in terms of imparting substantive knowledge to the high school students, but in terms of being able to help the community, serve as role models and mentors for local youth, facilitate the pipeline from high school to higher education and forge stronger ties between the law school and the community.

Trillo-Reyes, for example, said she applied to be a Marshall-Brennan fellow because she "believes in the importance of fostering a relationship between the law school and those outside of the law school," and because she "hopes to contribute to the success of minority students in the state."

McCormick similarly noted that the program allows him to “give back to the community, pass along his knowledge of the Constitution and inform the students of their rights and responsibilities under the Constitution.”

The law student fellows were also attracted to the program’s ability to enrich the high school students’ views on the law and the program’s potential to help students use the law to improve their communities and society overall. 

"The program helps us teach the youth that the law is not an external force that is constantly pushing down on them,” said Vallejos. “Rather, the law is something that they can get involved with and change."

This year’s program is especially significant for Goodluck, who worked for NACA prior to law school and has been instrumental in NACA’s development since its founding.

"It is important that we are fostering and mentoring a new generation of legal minds at a young age, and developing the pipeline for the future,” she said. Goodluck also highlighted the mutually beneficial nature of the program, and she believes it will help “develop the critical thinking skills of individuals from communities that have been disenfranchised by the law historically.”

McCormick and Vallejos are returning as Marshall-Brennan fellows after serving as fellows last year. McCormick wanted to continue as a fellow to help it further develop into a self-sustaining program. Vallejos enjoyed seeing the transformation of the high school students go from being uninterested to being engaged in the subject.

Preston Sanchez (`12), who served as a Marshall-Brennan fellow last year, has now taken on a leadership role with the program. He helps oversee all aspects of the program and specifically assists the fellows with curricular and classroom issues.

Sanchez wanted to stay involved with the program because he enjoys mentoring, and wants to “help the youth from underrepresented communities find their voice and find their path, whether it be in law school or higher education.”

Under the Marshall-Brennan program, UNM law students teach civics to high school students in traditionally underserved areas or from traditionally underserved communities. In its inaugural year, participating UNM Law students taught at a high school in Albuquerque’s South Valley.  The UNM Law chapter of the Marshall-Brennan program was started by Professor Dawinder S. Sidhu.

September 10, 2012