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Judge holds court for granddaughter

February 01, 2002

Judge holds court for granddaughter



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


Washington County District Judge Noel Spence's stern court demeanor didn't scare off his 14-year-old granddaughter Thursday morning.

"He's actually pretty nice," said his granddaughter, Jessica Jenkins, after the morning court session.

Jessica, an eighth-grader at Clear Spring Middle School, observed her grandfather's role as a judge as part of Washington County Public Schools' annual eighth-graders Day on the Job.

The event is co-sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. Citicorp Credit Services Inc. paid the postage for the school system to mail out reminders to eighth-grade students.

Most of the county's 1,553 eighth-graders will take part in the activity today, but Jessica had her turn Thursday because of a scheduling conflict.

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Her brother, Stephen, 15, is to shadow Spence today.

Jessica, who watched her grandfather give his thoughts about a man who was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and warn an observer who twice spoke loudly while court was in session, said being a judge is something she might consider.

"It's a little boring, a little interesting, but overall it's OK," Jessica said.

She said she learned how the court system works, that defendants have a right to a trial by jury and that some may choose to waive the jury trial.

"It's just interesting how it works in the courtroom," Jessica said.

Her first career choice, however, would be to attend Harvard or the University of Maryland to become an astronomer.

"I've always been fascinated with the stars," Jessica said. "I love just sitting there looking at the stars at night and finding constellations."

Spence said he was thrilled to have Jessica shadow him for the day.

"I'm delighted," he said. "I'm just happy that we have a pretty good relationship."

Sharon Chirgott, the Board of Education's academy and career connections program resource teacher, said the Day on the Job program is designed to make students aware of their career options, get an idea of what skills they need and help them plan their high school courses.

"It serves a lot of purposes for all kids," Chirgott said.

The program wasn't mandatory for the eighth-graders, but Chirgott said it was strongly encouraged. If students couldn't find professionals to observe on the job, they were paired with principals, food service workers or other school personnel.

She said students were encouraged to shadow parents or relatives.

"This way kids get to see what mom and dad do," Chirgott said.

Jessica said that she was glad she picked her grandfather to shadow.

"If I had the chance to go someplace else, I would still come here, just because I feel more comfortable," she said.

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