Student gets glimpse at possible career path

April 14, 2003|by NICOLE MILLER / Staff Correspondent

Amanda Balamenti took her interest in law on a trial run in late March when she attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law in Washington, D.C.

The forum is a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization that sponsors highly specialized career-oriented programs for high school students who demonstrate leadership potential.

Amanda, 16, joined more than 350 high school students from across the nation at the conference, which is designed to give students a first-hand glimpse into the legal field.


The program helps students narrow their field of study so they can better select their college course work and better plan out their futures, said Brett West, the forum's director of media relations and Web site development.

"Each program aims to provide students with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it takes to successfully pursue a career in these professional disciplines," West said.

The forum's curriculum is based upon actual events, letting students learn from examples set by lawyers and judges from municipal court to the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to observing top legal minds at work, students examine how court cases have changed the nation's legal system, West said.

"By interacting with partners at law firms, criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors, as well as professors and other experts of the legal profession, students begin shaping their future here," said Donna Snyder, executive director of the forum.

Amanda decided to explore the U.S. legal system and its careers by following up on the forum flyer she got in the mail after checking "law" as her career interest on a PSAT survey.

"I wanted to be a lawyer, but I was unsure," she said.

The St. Maria Goretti High School junior wasn't disappointed by her decision to go to the law forum, for which participants had to pay $1,300.

"It was so much fun. I met so many new people and learned so much," Amanda said.

She spent six days visiting law schools and courthouses in the nation's capital, observing trials, talking to practicing attorneys and professors, and participating in mock court cases.

Amanda said talking to the lawyers was the most memorable part of the experience.

"You see them on TV and they seem so proper and high up, but they were just so nice and gave us all encouragement," she said.

A U.S. Supreme Court mock trial - Zimmerman v. Harris - crowned the forum. Assuming the role of Supreme Court justices, Amanda and the other students had the chance to hear a case and question lawyers, she said.

"I still have no clue what I want to do," Amanda said. "I do know that I don't actually want to be a courtroom lawyer, but I am still interested in law."

For more information about the National Youth Leadership Forum, visit the organization's Web site at

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