University News

WNE School of Law Partners with Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School

Published: January 31, 2022 | Categories: Law, All News
Students from Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School holding court

Students from Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School (PFSJ) in Chicopee spent the day Friday, January 14 at the Western New England University (WNE) School of Law getting a first-hand look at the legal profession and the study of law. This was the first in a series of activities planned by the University for the spring semester 2022.

This five-month program, titled "Introduction to Law," introduces students to both law knowledge and courtroom procedures. The program is taking place on the Western New England University campus with the support of the law library staff. This program was developed so that students can connect with law students and promote diversity within legal professions.

"Starting this Intro to Law program between Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School and Western New England has been such a wonderful experience," said Kaitlin Allair, PFSJ Library Media Specialist. "The law library staff at Western New England has brought an infectious energy and enthusiasm to the project, and have made the experience so valuable for our students already. I have loved working with them all, the law students volunteer too, and I feel honored to be able to bring this experience to the students at Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School. It is such a unique opportunity to be able to immerse themselves in a program like this while exploring their future career options."

The partnership involves a group of nine high school students visiting the Blake Law Center monthly during the academic year for various activities and projects led by WNE faculty, staff, and students.

"A meeting with the PFSJ Librarians to discuss opportunities for our students to connect with Western New England University has developed into an uplifting program," said Desmond Maisonet, Interim Dean of School Culture and Climate. "I am honored to be part of this program as we are currently developing a 10-month program for the 2022-23 school year."

Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School students have the opportunity to work alongside WNE Law students researching laws, dissecting case studies, and understanding the function of a courtroom. They are also given access to WNE Center for Social Justice staff to answer questions and discuss career interests.

"The School of Law is delighted to collaborate with the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in bringing together high school students, law students, and law faculty and staff for a semester-long project of research, learning, and teamwork," said WNE School of Law Dean Sudha Setty. "WNE Law and Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School share a mission of expanding the horizons of students to see how their passion for social justice can be channeled into working toward a more just and equitable society. As such, this collaboration builds on both of our institutional missions, and strengthens the ties of WNE Law with our community."

PFSJ junior Alexander Ortiz Jr. said "My experience at Western New England University was amazing. I was not that interested in law before this visit. The students and professors made me realize that knowing these laws as an American citizen is important. I'm very excited to work more with WNE in the future."

Beverly Vila, also a PFSJ junior said "This opportunity has impacted me because I'm really starting to think about what kind of lawyer I want to be. It's also reminded me of memories I had when I was younger about being in front of a judge for my adoption. All of this is making me want to pursue being a family law judge, and I'm grateful to be able to explore that."

Future activities will include a research project, moot court exercises, and a meet and greet with members of the WNE Black Law Students Association and Latino/a Law Students Association.

"Our hope is that this program will grow and continue for many years with a new group of high school participants each year and that we will see some of these students attend WNE School of Law in the future," said Rachel Szostak, Assistant Director of Admissions for WNE School of Law.