- Massachusetts Probation Service
Media Contact for Lowell First Justice hosts second annual “Color of Justice” event to introduce young women of color to law careers
Coria Holland, Communications Director
Lowell, MA — Lowell District Court First Justice Stacey Fortes hosted the second annual “Color of Justice,“ a recent day-long event at the court created to introduce middle school girls of color to careers in the legal profession. The theme for this year’s program was based on a quote by Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, “You can’t be, what you can’t see.” The 48 seventh and eighth graders from the Bartlett, Butler, and Sullivan schools attended panel discussions, participated in a courthouse tour, and were served lunch during breakout sessions.
Panelists included judges, probation officers, clerks, police, assistant district attorneys, and lawyers. They shared their personal experiences and backgrounds, according to Judge Fortes. The speakers at the May 17 event encouraged the students to pursue careers in law, discussed the significance of personal commitment and perseverance, and the role and importance of the criminal justice system.
“This is an event I plan to present every year to introduce young women of color to careers in the legal profession. Who knows we may have a future judge, probation officer, clerk or lawyer in the group.”
“I found the students to be very engaged in the panel discussions and inquisitive about the role we play in the courts. I am happy to have participated in an event that helps educate children about the legal profession,” said Lowell District Assistant Chief Probation Officer Ethel Ryan Gomes.
The first panel, “A Day in the Life of a Judge” featured talks by Judge Fortes, Associate Justice of the Appeals Court Sabita Singh, Associate Justice of the District Court Barbara Pearson, and Associate Justice of the District Court Tejal Mehta. The second panel discussion, “How do I become a lawyer?,” included talks by Attorney Melissa Devore, Attorney Lisa Wagner of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), and Assistant District Attorney Amy Parker of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. A third panel, “What is it like to work in a courthouse?” featured Probation employees Lowell District Court Assistant Chief Probation Officer Ethel Gomes and Probation Officer Katherine Diaz. First Assistant Clerk Janice Carroll, Sessions Clerk Meredith Cotter, Staff Spanish Interpreter Mary Martinez, and Lowell Police Officer Nadja Peace were among the other professionals who shared their experiences with the young women.
“Thank you for preparing me for my future,” wrote one middle schooler.
One of the teachers who brought the children to the court, wrote: “Dear Judge Fortes, taking our students to the Color of Justice event has been one of my most favorite things to do in my 18-year career at the Sullivan School. I saw how excited and inspired the girls were.”
This event was introduced last year by Judge Fortes, a member of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) in District 1. The Washington, DC-based NAWJ, established in 1979, is described on its website as “a dynamic gathering of women judges who are dedicated to preserving judicial independence to women, minorities, and other historically disfavored groups while increasing the number and advancement of women judges, and providing cutting-edge judicial education.”
The students were treated to lunch offered during break-out sessions where the children and mentors continued their discussions which were followed by a tour of the courthouse. Each of the students were presented with tote bags, donated by NAWJ, filled with books such as “My OWN Words,” by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson, and “Trell,” by Dick Lehr.