BY: | DATE: May 05, 2023

CUNY School of Law

communications@law.cuny.edu

leaders at the launch of CUNY Law's First Impressions Youth Initiative

Henry T. Berger, Terry Pratt, Liz Fine, Senator Jamaal T. Bailey ’12, Dean Sudha Setty

 

“A young person’s first interaction with the justice system can stay with them for the rest of their lives. All too often, this first impression is fraught with fear and mistrust. By investing in a community-focused framework that empowers young people through mentorship and education, we can reimagine the way our young people first come into contact with the justice system.” – Senator Jamaal T. Bailey, CUNY Law Class of 2012

NEW YORK, NY— Yesterday, the City University of New York School of Law (CUNY Law) announced the $1M First Impressions Youth Justice Initiative (First Impressions), a pilot program designed to change how young people and the justice system interact by offering a community-focused framework for mentorship, education, and civic leadership.

Vital support and leadership for this program came from New York State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey, a 2012 alumnus of the Law School, and Governor Kathy Hochul. CUNY Law’s First Impressions, in partnership with the NYS Office of Court Administration (OCA) and United Neighborhood Houses New York (UNH), is the first program of its kind and a model designed to be replicated across New York State. Additionally, First Impressions will include student-led leadership opportunities, including a summer program at the Law School and College Now youth empowerment courses at Bronx Community College and Queens College.

“Through this initiative, we are growing the impact of CUNY Law’s mission to make legal education more accessible and to diversify the field, and creating a new model that can be replicated around the state and nation,” said CUNY Law Dean Sudha Setty. “First Impressions is an innovative and multi-faceted program in collaboration with renowned community-based settlement houses and New York’s justice system. These kinds of connections create lasting ties through mentorship, community engagement, civics education, and leadership. We are appreciative of the leadership and support of New York State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey (class of 2012) and Governor Kathy Hochul in making this vision a reality.”

New York State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey ’12 said, “A young person’s first interaction with the justice system can stay with them for the rest of their lives. All too often, this first impression is fraught with fear and mistrust. By investing in a community-focused framework that empowers young people through mentorship and education, we can reimagine the way our young people first come into contact with the justice system. As a proud CUNY Law graduate, I believe there’s no institution better equipped to lead this initiative in our communities and carry forward CUNY Law’s mission of ‘law in the service of human needs.’ It is truly a full-circle moment to now be able to inspire the next generation of young people to careers in law through the First Impressions Youth Justice Initiative. When young people can see themselves represented in the future of the justice system – not only as attorneys and judges, but as court staff and professionals who play a vital role at all levels of the justice system – they can begin to change the narrative and shape a more just and equitable system. I want to thank all of our partners, Governor Kathy Hochul, OCA, CUNY Law, Dean Sudha Setty, and UNHNY, for making this critical initiative possible.”

First Impressions is designed to leverage the Law School’s expertise in pipeline programming that expands access to justice and to activate UNH’s members’ community-based youth programs. Collaboration with the settlement houses will enable the initiative to be hyper-local and community-based, providing programming co-facilitated by CUNY Law throughout the academic year that includes mentorship by OCA employees at all levels within the court system. In addition, high school students with existing CUNY relationships will have access to credit-bearing College Now courses at CUNY campuses. The curriculum, in alignment with CUNY Law’s mission “law in the service of human needs,” will focus on promoting youth empowerment and community action. Finally, CUNY Law students will teach a summer program focused on the development of communication skills, youth agency, and civics leadership that will support them in whatever career they choose to pursue.

“For more than a century, settlement houses have been dedicated to fostering community-centered, collaborative programming in New York City,” says Susan Stamler, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses. “Fostering the skills and leadership of young people as well as encouraging every New Yorker to be actively engaged in civic and community life is essential to building strong, healthy neighborhoods. United Neighborhood Houses is honored to be part of this initiative that follows a long tradition of youth empowerment in the settlement house movement. We thank CUNY Law, Senator Bailey, and the Governor for their commitment to this issue.”

First Impressions stands to become a model program that engages young people in their own community spaces, provides access to one of the nation’s largest public universities, and introduces the justice system.

The City University of New York School of Law is the nation’s leading public interest law school; its dual mission is to train lawyers dedicated to the practice of law in service of human needs and to make the learning, teaching, and practice of law accessible to those historically excluded from the legal profession.

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