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Samohi Student Will Have Close Look at Legal System: one of 23 from state to take part in legal literacy program

Santa Monica High School student Emily Bennion has been selected to participate in the Foundation of the State Bar of California’s Legal Heritage Institute, a one-week, all-expenses paid legal literacy summer program for high school seniors.

With 23 other students from throughout California, Bennion will spend the week of July 10-16 in Sacramento, visiting courthouses and law firms and learning about the legal system and the importance of an independent judiciary. Upon successful completion of the program and enrollment in a college or university, Bennion will be eligible for a college scholarship in an amount up to $1,500.

“The Legal Heritage Institute offers students a first-hand view of the courts and government in action, allowing them to interact with some of the top jurists, lawyers, legislative staffers, and civic leaders in California,” said Leslie Hatamiya, Executive Director of the Foundation, which is in its fifth year of running the program. “The students are challenged to think critically about our justice system and the importance of the rule of law and an independent judiciary in a democratic society. In addition, throughout the week, the students are exposed to the legal profession as a potential career path that can be both challenging and rewarding.”

The Foundation selected Bennion and the other participating students on the basis of a statewide essay competition on “My Rights and Responsibilities under the Law.” Bennion, who was nominated for the competition by Santa Monica High School, wrote her essay on “judical independence observed through the Terry Schiavo case.”

“Ms. Bennion is an ideal student to participate in the Legal Heritage Institute,” said Ms. Hatamiya. “She is bright, interested in law and government, and determined to make a positive difference in her community. We expect Ms. Bennion to return to her high school and share the insights and perspectives gained this summer with her classmates and teachers.”

A total of 40 California high school students will be participating in this summer’s Legal Heritage Institute program. In addition to the 24 students, including Bennion, who will be based for the week at UC Davis and exploring the State Capitol, 16 students will spend the week of August 14-20, at UCLA in a similar program.

The program’s field faculty consists of volunteer lawyers, judges, and civic leaders. The State Department of Education has approved and endorsed the program’s curriculum for 12th grade civics competency.

Supported by charitable donations from the state’s lawyers and contributions from its corporate partners, the Foundation covers the entire cost of the Legal Heritage Institute program, including transportation costs to and from the Institute site, room and board, and all activities, as well as the college scholarships.

Since the Legal Heritage Institute’s inception in 2001, the Foundation has awarded over $295,000 in scholarships to approximately 100 California high school students. Those students are now attending colleges across the country, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Yale, and numerous Cal State University campuses.Founded in 1990, the Foundation is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the State Bar of California, dedicated to promoting, improving, and building public trust and confidence in our justice system. In addition to sponsoring the Legal Heritage Institute, the Foundation distributes grants to nonprofit organizations, courts, and bar associations for law-related projects, awards scholarships to law school students committed to public service, and supports an array of other educational programs. For more information, please visit www.foundationstatebarcal.org.

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