July 20, 2006 – Vol. 41, No. 49

Nelson Fellows get inside judicial system

Christine McCall

Selected as recipients for the 10th anniversary of the Nelson Fellowship Program, eight Boston public high school students were sworn in by U.S. District Court Judge Reginald C. Lindsay earlier this month at the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse.

And one of them, Monica Taylor, 18, said she couldn’t wait to learn how to indict someone.

Of course, she wants to learn about the entire criminal justice system and is very happy that she was selected to participate in a prestigious program.

Taylor will be a senior this fall at English High School and has plans to become either an entertainment lawyer or sports agent.

“I’m most looking forward to the public speaking classes and the mock trial,” Taylor said.

The Nelson Fellowship Program was started to honor the late Judge David Sutherland Nelson. Nelson was the first African American appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. President Jimmy Carter appointed him on March 23, 1979.

Nelson died in 1996. One of the goals of the program is to preserve Nelson’s memory and honor his contributions to the communities in and around Boston.

Judge Lindsay is a co-sponsor of the program and he spoke during the swearing-in ceremony.

“From his love of his native Boston — ‘a superb city, ancient, beautiful, vibrant,’ in his words — to his dedication to his profession and his community, he exemplified the best in public service,” Lindsay said.

Nelson also “embodied the qualities of fairness and openness so important in the faithful discharge of his judicial responsibilities.”

“[Nelson] was a great public citizen,” Lindsay continued. “He loved the city and wanted to develop a diverse city where everyone could succeed [and in addition] he wanted to help young people grow and develop.”

U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris also sponsors the program. She shared a different side of Nelson. He was “one of the funniest, most beloved judges in the court.”

Nelson Fellowship recipients must undergo a rigorous application and interviewing process. Each fellow is assigned to a judge and all the students are compensated for the work they perform over the summer.

This program is designed to give students a thorough understanding of the judicial system. They are exposed to a series of public speakers, take a course on public speaking and writing, get college counseling, take part in a community service activity and see all the daily activities that occur behind the scenes in a judge’s chambers.

Nelson Fellow Mavrick Afonso, 18, of Dorchester, says the law fascinates him. Afonso will be a senior at Charlestown High School in the fall. He said he would like to attend Brown University and study entrepreneurship, business, economics or law.

Afonso said he is most excited about “meeting people, getting contacts, the mock trial and just learning about other people.”

At the end of the summer, the Nelson Fellows will participate in a mock trial, one of the highlights of the program. The mock trial date is set for Aug. 23. In this setting, the fellows will be divided into defense attorneys and prosecutors.

Keshav Persad, 18, of Jamaica Plain is a current Nelson Fellow and will be attending Suffolk University this fall.

“[The Nelson Fellowship Program] is an opportunity that most people don’t have and you see a different perspective of the legal system,” Persad said.

She is very interested in the law and the Boston Bar Association, and she is hoping that this program will help her to decide whether she wants to become a judge someday.

Current Nelson Fellowship program coordinator, Oneda Horne, 21, of Norton, is a former Nelson Fellow. Looking back on her experience, she said, “It was the best summer experience of my life” and also said “it gave me the confidence to succeed.”

“This program does so much for students,” Horne added. “Exactly what it does depends on the individual, but it does help you to realize how far you can go in life.”

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