YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Three dozen students from Lakeland and Yorktown schools were honored Wednesday, Feb. 15, as graduates of the Alliance for Safe Kids Youth Court Class of 2017.

The six-week volunteer program, started in 2007, teaches students about the law, the judicial process, public speaking, crime scene investigation and more. It is organized and run by teens, adjudicating misdemeanor cases involving other teens with the goal of reducing juvenile delinquency. Youth Court members serve in the roles of judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, jury, clerk and bailiff.

“I joined Youth Court because I am interested in studying criminal justice and law enforcement,” said Alexander Cignarella, eighth grader at Mildred E. Strang Middle School. “Reading about a career gives you an idea of what it’s like, talking about it with someone gives you even greater insight, but nothing compares to actually doing it. I want to experience the justice system first hand, from the right side of the bench.”

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The comprehensive training is overseen by professionals in the field, including police officers, social workers, members of the district attorney’s office, and other sectors of the legal community. It concludes with a mock trial and bar exam to ensure that the volunteer members have achieved the necessary knowledge and confidence to fulfill their roles. The program has graduated 187 students in its 10 years.

“I like to give back to my community and feel that I’m making a difference in people’s lives,” said Sean Bussell, dophomore at Lakeland High School. “ By joining Youth Court, I’d like to use and improve my leadership skills in working with my peers and with youth offenders.”

The ceremony was attended by many local dignitaries and school officials.

“The local community was truly exceptional in supporting this program when our own Yorktown Justices, police and local attorneys contributed their time and expertise,” said Nancy Levin, director of the Youth Court. “This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to learn and grow and this year was an excellent experience for all.”

The ceremony was held at Yorktown Justice Court. The class of 2017 is:

  • Colin Bard, Yorktown High School
  • Benjamin Brown, Mildred E. Strang Middle School
  • Matthew Buchwald, Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School
  • Michael Buchwald, Lakeland High School
  • Sean Bussell, Lakeland High School
  • Noelle Cegielski, Yorktown High School
  • Joey Christensen, Yorktown High School
  • Alexander Cignarella, Mildred E. Strang Middle School
  • Liam Colgan, Yorktown High School
  • Matthew D’Amaso, Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School
  • Erin Dahlke, Yorktown High School
  • Alex DeBenedictis, Yorktown High School
  • Nicholas DeMarsh, Yorktown High School
  • Matthew Frogel, Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School
  • Alyssa Giannasca, Yorktown High School
  • Nabil Kamal, Yorktown High School
  • Samuel Kaplan, Mildred E. Strang Middle School
  • Lauren Kitts, Mildred E. Strang Middle School
  • Daniel Koch, Mildred E. Strang Middle School
  • David Kollbeck, Lakeland High School
  • Madison Levine, Yorktown High School
  • Allie Markman, Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School
  • Tyler Merson, Yorktown High School
  • Ben Moffat, Yorktown High School
  • Celia Nash, Mildred E. Strang Middle School
  • Elizabeth O’Donnell, Yorktown High School
  • Daniel O’Meara, Yorktown High School
  • Ava Pagliaro, Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School
  • Grace Pearce, Mildred E. Strang Middle School
  • Ashley Poe, Yorktown High School
  • Spencer Poe, Yorktown High School
  • Nicole Rabadi, Yorktown High School
  • Erica Savoca, Yorktown High School
  • Nicholas Scalera, Mildred E. Strang Middle School
  • Ian Schwartz, Yorktown High School
  • Timothy Stewart, Mildred E. Strang Middle School

For more information, visit allianceforsafekids.org.

All photos by Tabitha Pearson Marshall