According to Alexa Jackson, a senior at Milton High School (MHS), former Vt. Supreme Court Justice John Dooley eats chicken, coleslaw, and pickles for lunch. At least, he did when she had lunch with him on Oct. 24, when the current Vt. Supreme Court traveled to the high school to hold five hearings in the auditorium turned courtroom.
According to a state press release, the Supreme Court has held a term “On The Road,” for the past three years in an effort to give students and the public an opportunity to witness government at work. Instead of hearing arguments in Montpelier, the justices hold one term at a Vermont high school.
“We are honored to bring the work of the Vermont Supreme Court to Milton High School,” Chief Justice Paul Reiber said in the press release. “I am especially excited that students will see their Supreme Court in person and learn about the justice system. It might even cause some to gain an interest in public service or a career in the law.”
Social studies teacher at MHS, Jason Gorczyk, said he’s been taking his students to the capital to attend hearings for years but jumped at the chance to bring the Supreme Court to Milton.
“Where else besides Vermont does the state’s Supreme Court take its proceeding to area schools? This is an amazing opportunity for Milton High School and surrounding schools,” he said in the release.
Jackson and a couple other students in her AP Government class had the chance to ask questions of current and past justices including Dooley and Justice Beth Robinson before the hearings.
“These people hold high power. But these are just people,” Jackson said, describing how sitting down to lunch with Dooley broke down the intimidation factor.
While Jackson would like to become a teacher, she said she’s surrounded by lawyers—most of her friends want to go into law.
“We’re really lucky how accessible this is,” said Evelyn Stearns, another MHS senior and one of Jackson’s future lawyer friends. “It’s very cool to see the structure of how government works.”
Bringing the Supreme Court to high schools and holding hearings in an environment where students feel comfortable makes it less intimidating, said Gorzcyk.
Like Jackson said, the justices are just people. Talking with them face to face, or over coleslaw and pickles in Jackson’s case—that future feels attainable.
Renee Ellis, Alexa Jackson, Evelyn Stearns, and Morgan Ambrose