NEW YORK, NY – Columbia gets a little bit of a facelift every summer, looking younger as high school students flock the campus grounds. While summer classes for college students are still offered, Columbia opens its gates to a new generation of jittery high school students.
The university offers a three-week intensive program where students from grades 9-12 can choose from a variety of courses ranging from Constitutional Law to Biomedical Engineering. The program is designed to give young students a taste of college, independence, and life in New York City.
I can speak to the program’s effectiveness and success because before coming to Columbia myself, I attended two sessions. These summers sparked my interest in law and are the reason I still want to become a lawyer today. I took Introduction and Advanced Trial Advocacy with the Assistant District Attorney of Alaska at the time, Florina Altshiler. The classes were so intriguing because they were taught by someone who spends the rest of the year out in the field prosecuting criminals. The class wasn’t taught from a textbook; it was taught from Professor Altshiler’s courtroom experience.
The program was structured so that we had class from 10 A.M- Noon, a two hour break, and then again from 2pm-4pm. There were lots of activity options planned for the breaks, and on most days I chose the volunteering program.
Some lunches I spent playing with children in a low-income Manhattan daycare and others I would help clean up at a local thrift store. After class I would explore the 21 libraries that Columbia has to offer, before I went exploring all that New York has. On the weekends I visited Coney Island, Soho, Central Park, and the Yankee Stadium.
The three weeks culminated in a mock trial performed in the New York State Supreme Court Building. I remember being told as I walked up the landscape steps that young lawyers dreamed of the opportunity to argue a case within the walls of this courthouse.
We spent the day in court, with a jury made up of program RA's that knew nothing about the case. At the end of the day the jury went into the deliberating room and came out with a verdict.
I felt like a real lawyer up there making concrete objections and addressing the “ladies and gentlemen of the jury." I was granted opportunities, as just a high school student, that college students dreamed of. Now, a year into college, I walk around Columbia’s campus and love seeing the excitement on the high school student’s faces. It reminds me of my summertimes at Columbia, and reminds me how grateful I am to attend this school.