Legally Ours: A free after-school program focused on the career development and legal engagement of youth with local issues

Legally Ours exposes middle schoolers to the legal field while promoting community involvement and building their communication skills.

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Date You Started Your Project Started

August 12th, 2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Middle schoolers are at a stage in their education where they are beginning to think about their career options but oftentimes lack the critical tools and skills they need in order to excel not only in a higher learning academic environment but also in any profession they choose to enter. Schools have varying levels of career coaching activities, and some middle schools have none at all, not providing students with the exposure they will need.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Legally Ours is a free 8-week after school program that helps middle school students build the important oral and written communication skills they will need academically and professionally through the lens of the legal field in order to provide them with more exposure to a career they might not have heard much about. In addition, Legally Ours turns this into an opportunity to get middle schoolers to be more involved with their communities by putting their developed communication abilities and legal toolbox to use by conducting research and then writing letters in support of local issues. One example of this is a talented Legally Ours student writing to their state representative condemning the use of detention centers for immigrant children by citing international human rights law and its applications. Legally Ours meets once a week for one hour as an after school extracurricular, and follows the below curriculum: WEEK 1: Introduction WEEK 2: Legal Terminology and Definitions WEEK 3: Oral Communication Skills WEEK 4: Written Communication Skills WEEK 5: Crash-Course in Formal Writing WEEK 6: Research Local Issues WEEK 7: Write Legal Support Letters WEEK 8: Conclusion

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I decided to start this project because when I was in middle school, my school did not offer any career building extracurricular activities or training in formal communication skills, which I had to learn myself throughout high school and college. I found it extremely difficult to suddenly be expected to compete in the job market, even as a high schooler looking for part-time jobs, when I had no idea how to write formal letters or a clue as to what career I would like to pursue eventually. It would have been extremely helpful for me to have had the experience Legally Ours provides middle schoolers when I was in middle school myself while also being able to use it as a channel to create positive change in the community through youth involvement. There is a persistent tendency to underestimate the capabilities of the youth, and that is what Legally Ours is seeking to eradicate.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

We are stepping up to make change because middle schoolers are often overlooked in terms of their potential to not only grasp complex career-oriented concepts but also to be involved in and create a positive difference within their communities. Why shouldn't middle schoolers be given the same opportunities that older students in schools with developed professional programs have?

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When a middle schooler signs up for Legally Ours as a free extracurricular activity, they are first given forms detailing the curriculum, materials, and meeting times. Then, at the first meeting, they join a motivated team of 10 to 15 other middle schoolers and immediately jump right in with learning basic legal terms and how they can be used in writing. Slowly, following the 8-week curriculum, they develop professionally as individuals and gain expertise in oral and written communication, building upon the base skills that they already have. These skills are soon put to use when they combine the communication tools they acquired with the legal exposure they gained to write letters to local officials or their congressional representatives in support of issues that are personally meaningful to them. At the end, they are sent away with insight into a new career and professional skills.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

What is different about Legally Ours is the legal lens through which we teach our middle school students important communication skills. Law is not a field that many undergraduate students, let alone middle schoolers, are exposed to at all. As an undergraduate student aiming to pursue a law degree myself, I personally know how difficult it is to find resources or work within the legal field unless you are already enrolled in law school. By allowing middle schoolers to gain a little insight into being a lawyer while strengthening their writing, they have access to a unique opportunity.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Through the coordinated efforts of our motivated 4 person executive board and extended team, Legally Ours has currently been approved to be added as an extracurricular activity at six different middle schools in the greater Boston area, with a total recruitment base of approximately 2,500 students, of which around 100 are projected to enroll for the first program session. Once the 8-week program begins in October, Legally Ours can measure its impact through the quality of our interactions with students and parents and the extent to which students feel that it has made a difference in their development academically and professionally. In addition to that, another way to measure Legally Ours' impact will be through the community and the official response to the legal letters each of the students send out, particularly with regards to how many of them receive replies that implement change.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Within the next year, Legally Ours will be registered as an official 501(c)(3) and hire 9 more associates. It will also successfully run its first 8-week program session at the end of October, with a projected enrollment of 90-100 students. Following the Fall Semester, Legally Ours will have the same program again for the Spring Semester, with an ideal enrollment of 110-120 students across all of the middle schools that it operates in as a free extracurricular activity. In addition, the Legally Ours team will coordinate and run a new advertising campaign during the end of the Fall Semester to promote the program to students and parents through local Boston area newspapers, PTSA bulletins, and individual school assembly and classroom visits.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Legal Services

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • T-Mobile page or contact

Evaluation results

17 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 70.6%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 17.6%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 11.8%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 88.2%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 11.8%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 88.2%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 5.9%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 5.9%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 21.4%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 7.1%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 87.5%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 6.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 6.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


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