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Brooklyn courts kick off one-of-a-kind summer internship program

July 9, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to the Brooklyn courts, interns! The Brooklyn court system hosted its annual orientation for its Student Employment and Internship Program that was created in 1989. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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During the summer of 2014, Kwok Kei Ng went to work for Hon. Carolyn E. Wade as part of the Kings County Courts Student Employment and Internship Program. During the years, he kept in touch with the judge as he finished college, applied to law school, graduated from law school and passed the bar.

On Monday morning, Ng sat next to Justice Wade as the pair watched the SYEP 2018 interns go through orientation. He is now officially her assistant law clerk and works full time in the courthouse.

“This should not just be for one summer,” said Justice Wade as she addressed this year’s group of students. “You should form relationships with whoever you work with. I hope that you absorb as much as you can because this is an opportunity that everyone does not have. You never know what will happen down the road.”

During Monday’s internship orientation, another intern, Gabriella Birzh, who is in her third year in the program and appears to be headed down a similar path as Ng, was invited to be the keynote speaker at this year’s orientation. She thanked the program’s organizer Charmaine Johnson for her work and offered advice to her fellow students.

“The individuals that work in these courts come from a variety of backgrounds and different fields, thus, have a plethora of knowledge,” Birzh said. “Ask them about their education or the steps they took in their careers to end up where they are, especially if you have an interest in their field. Having someone to guide you through this process is invaluable.”

Birzh was just one of the faces that students met on Monday. Hon. Deborah Dowling served as the mistress of ceremonies for orientation. She introduced the students to Hon. Matthew D’Emic, the administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term, as well as the chief clerks for the Criminal and Civil terms, Daniel Alessandrino and Charles Small, respectively.

“I just want to welcome all of you,” said Justice D’Emic. “If years past have been any indication then I know that you will have a good summer here. Make the most of it. You’re here to learn what you like and what you don’t like. It’s a family here and we’re happy to have you as part of it.”

Capt. Jennifer Spinelli.

The students also got to meet Justice Wade, Justice Robin Sheares and Capt. Jennifer Spinelli.

“When I was younger, my summer job was to inspect other summer youth employment programs,” said Justice Sheares. “No program was doing what they were supposed to do. I did not see it until some years later I came to this court system and I saw what Izetta Johnson was doing.”

Izetta Johnson, who died in 2016, was the founder of the summer internship program. It started that summer with just a couple of students and evolved into a program that takes in dozens of students each year and places them in many different jobs throughout the entire court system. Justice Dowling bragged that the program was the only of its kind in the state and possibly the country.

“One of the reasons you are here is because of the vision of a wonderful woman who was an employee of the court system,” Justice Dowling said. “She developed and led many projects including the award-winning summer internship program that she started in 1989. She was committed to equality and opportunity for her students. I don’t think she ever met a young person that she didn’t love. It is because of her that you are here today.”

Over the next few weeks the students will shadow court employees, be assigned tasks to complete, participate in workshops and competitions.

“You should be proud because Charmaine Johnson sets high standards for the interns she picks,” Alessandrino said. “Set some goals for yourself for this period of time you are with us. It’s a short period of time, but use it to build your resume, network, ask questions and to try to meet the goals you set for yourself.”


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