So You’re Thinking of Joining Teen Court? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Teen Court. You may have heard about it, either from family members or friends who have participated in it, but what is it? How do you get involved? Why should you bother spending your time participating in this program when you could instead be playing Among Us? Well, I’m here to tell you about the awesome program that is Teen Court and why you should be part of it! 

What is Teen Court?

Teen Court is a restorative justice-based diversion program that serves first-time juvenile offenders and middle school and high school student volunteers. Basically, Teen Court is a program that allows first-time offenders to be able to participate in a sentencing hearing in front of their peers, instead of through the traditional system for juveniles. Volunteers take their positions very seriously and have the chance to be either a prosecuting or defense attorney, bailiff, judge’s assistant or jury member. “At the end of the day, we all want the best outcome for everyone,” says Josh McConnell, a sophomore at Harrison High School and active member of Teen Court. 

What impact does Teen Court have on the community?

Teen Court’s impact on the community “is very obviously seen in and outside of the courtroom,” says Gus Spradlin, a junior at Memorial High School and a Teen Court Committee co-chair. Fellow committee co-chair Claire Dombrowski, a junior at Signature School, says the program has a large impact on the community because it is “one of the only restorative justice programs” in the Tri-State. She adds that Teen Court “helps first-time juvenile offenders get their lives back on track” while “connecting them to positive influences.” 

What benefits do volunteers get from participating? 

While Teen Court does a lot for the youth offenders involved, it also does a lot for the volunteers who participate in the program:

  1. You get to meet new people!  

Teen Court connects students from across the Tri-State in eighth through 12th grades. Dombrowski says she has “gotten to know so many people just by talking with them before the hearing starts.” It is one of her favorite parts of Teen Court!

  1. You get exposure to certain careers!

Interested in law or law enforcement? Teen Court gives you a glimpse into these fields of work and more. McConnell believes Teen Court provides an opportunity not only for “struggling youth,” but also for “people who want to learn more about our law system and how it works.” 

  1. You get to help your peers!

One of the best parts about Teen Court is that volunteers get to offer a second chance for fellow youth. “After the hearings take place, there is a palpable feeling of good in the air,” says Spradlin. Who could pass that up?  

  1. You get service hours!

If none of the reasons above peak your interests, participating in Teen Court counts as service hours. It is a great opportunity to complete service hours for TAC (Youth Resources’ Teen Advisory Council) or for your school’s student council. 

Is it safe to participate given the current COVID-19 pandemic? 

Yes! The Teen Court members have been working very hard to ensure that Teen Court can still go on even during this strange time. Instead of being held in the Civic Center Complex in the Courts Building, it is now being held at the Old National Events Plaza. Fewer people volunteer at a time as well. Virtual training options have also been provided to ensure the safety of all people who want to participate. Teen Court plans to offer this option for as long as needed. 

How do you get involved?  

Well, if you made it this far, you are definitely intrigued! You’re hopefully wondering how you can get involved! It is relatively easy to become a Teen Court volunteer and member. Before doing so, make sure you meet the requirements to be in Teen Court which can be found on the Teen Court webpage. If you are able to participate, just follow these steps:

  1. Fill out an application

  2. Attend a training. 
    Teen Court tries to have trainings each semester, so be on the lookout for upcoming trainings.
  1. Sign up for a hearing.
    Once you complete the appropriate training and turn in your forms, you will be given all of the information you need to sign up for a hearing

Hopefully, by now, I’ve been able to convince you that Teen Court is an awesome program to be part of. I hope this blog has helped you make a decision. Thanks for reading! Now you can get back to playing Among Us. 

About the Blogger

Delaney Garland is a sophomore at North High School. She has been involved with Teen Advisory Council for two years and is a member of its MARCOM Committee. She has completed Teen Court training and looks forward to participating in the future.