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Brooklyn courts internship program leaves the other boroughs behind

July 8, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
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Seventy-two high school and college students from Brooklyn were at the Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term bright and early on Monday morning to begin the Kings County Courts Summer Youth Employment and Internship Program.

The program is the only one of its kind in the city through which students are placed in various positions throughout Brooklyn’s courts for a seven-week program. It not only introduces the students to the jobs in the courts, it also teaches them skills, such as resume writing and interviewing techniques, that they can take to other jobs.

“Nowadays, even if you have an education and a degree, it is hard to get a job,” said Court Clerk Charles Small. “We just recently hired two court attorneys and it was unbelievable the response we got, how many people applied. Having this extra line on your resume will indicate that you have some on-the-job experience, which is very important.”

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The Brooklyn court internship program began in the 1980s with just 10 students; this year’s class has 72.

At Monday’s orientation, students were introduced to the chief clerk as well as administrative judge for the Criminal Term Hon. Matthew D’Emic, Hon. Deborah Dowling and Hon. Delores Thomas. Court employees Natasha Delille and Xavier Carr also spoke to the students, as well as court officers Capt. Jennifer Spinelli and Capt. Kevin Gatherer.

“This is an important factor that we do every year to bring you in so that you can get a glimpse of perhaps what you want to make your future,” Justice Thomas said. “There is so much discussion about the rule of law. The rule of law is important because it separates us from the animal kingdom. It sets rules and regulations, and makes us be civil to one another.”

Many students return to the program for a second year. Brooklyn College student Tyler Byfield is back for a third year and spoke briefly to the new youth workers about why he returned again.

Charmaine Johnson, who is responsible for running the program, with returning intern Patrice Brown.

“I like this place a lot,” Byfield said. “It’s a little family that we have going on here where we support each other. If anyone needs help, all you have to do is ask and people will do whatever they can to help you. Always ask your supervisor because they will not hesitate to help you out.”

The program was created by Izetta Johnson in 1989 when she had just 10 students. Johnson, who worked in the courts for 35 years, worked all year round building up the summer internship program. This year’s class has 72 students, which has become the norm in recent years.

Since Johnson retired, the program has been ably run by Charmaine Johnson, who is no relation to Izetta, but often evokes her name at events like Monday’s.

Twelve students who have participated in the program in the past are back for a second year.

“I’m so happy to see 72 summer youth workers here today,” Charmaine said. “This has become such a popular program that I have been forced to turn away more students than ever. I have students from outside of Brooklyn who have called asking for a spot. I had to turn many of them away, so I’m hoping to see Izetta’s dream implemented throughout all of the five boroughs.”

Even Justice D’Emic joked, “What’s the matter with Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx?”

Justice D’Emic then pointed out exactly what goes on behind the scenes of such a program, and who is responsible for making it a success.

“[The other boroughs] don’t have Charmaine, they don’t have Judge Deborah Dowling and the rest of the people who put in all of the hard work that goes into this.”

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