HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. —
Hofstra Law School has partnered with the Youth Advocacy Center (YAC) to implement Getting Beyond the System®
, an innovative program geared toward assisting local disadvantaged youth, many from the foster care system. Each week, two Hofstra Law students — Orly Bertel 2L and Hilary Casper 2L — conduct classes with 10 young people to impart critical decision-making skills that will enable them to become their own best advocates and plan for future success.
Hofstra Law is the third law school nationally and the first on Long Island to host Getting Beyond the System, in its community. Bertel and Casper were trained by YAC to use the Socratic method — the same technique used in a traditional law school classroom — in their weekly sessions. The students, ages 16-21, all have had dealings with governmental systems, such as foster care or juvenile justice, and were selected by local community organizations in Nassau County.
“Hilary and I focus on teaching the students self-advocacy skills,” said Bertel, a second-year student from Plainview, N.Y., who serves as facilitator for the seminar. “By teaching at-risk youth how to set short- and long-term goals, depersonalize issues, understand the needs of others and develop their unique strengths, we are giving them the tools they need to create bright futures for themselves.”
During each class, the participants discuss and analyze case studies based on situations young people typically face at work, home and school. Using the case studies, Bertel and Casper help their students learn how to analyze situations, present arguments and develop negotiation and critical-thinking skills with an eye toward applying these skills to their own lives.
Students participating in the program are expected to adhere to a structured environment that includes mandatory attendance, homework, classroom participation and projects. The seminar is a 12-week course that culminates with each student conducting an informational career interview with a professional currently working in his or her field of interest. Through these interviews, the students obtain valuable advice about their career and education and begin to build contacts in the community.
“Our students have expressed interest in a wide range of careers, including medicine and law,” said Casper, a second-year student currently living in Oyster Bay, N.Y., who serves as co-facilitator. “As students identify their dream jobs, we help them think critically about how to best plan for the future and make their dreams become reality.”
This session of the Getting Beyond the System seminar will conclude on April 5, 2011, with a graduation ceremony hosted by Hofstra Law School.
“Orly and Hilary are great role models for their students,” said Ann L. Shalof, Esq., associate director of the Youth Advocacy Center. “These young women spend quality, concentrated time with students, they show their students great respect and, as students themselves, they are also building their own futures.”
The Youth Advocacy Center was founded in 1992 by Betsy Krebs and Paul Pitcoff based on their belief that youth in foster care have the desire, talents and potential to be participating citizens. The center focuses on helping young people in foster care and other system-involved youth prepare for successful adulthood and independence by learning to take control of their futures and become effective advocates for themselves. While the model of partnering with law schools has only been in practice for about two and a half years, the Youth Advocacy Center has been sponsoring the Getting Beyond the System seminar for nearly 10 years, with great success. For more information, visit www.youthadvocacycenter.org.