Boston Office Mentors Students Through e-Pals Program
BOSTON (February 2011) - Members of the firm's Boston office headed back to high school English class when they took a field trip to Monument High School in South Boston to meet their student e-Pals. This is the Boston office's first year participating in the e-Pals Program, which was initiated by insurance associate Melissa D'Alelio, a former high school English teacher. The program pairs professionals working in law firms with ninth grade students from the inner-city school. Students and Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. participants each read a selected novel. This year, it was Maya Angelou's "I know Why the Cages Bird Sings." Each week, students composed an e-mail to their assigned e-Pal about the book and participating firm members responded to their assigned students, exchanging ideas and opinions about themes in the book. Through this weekly e-mail exchange, students improved their computer and writing skills and also formed a special mentoring relationship with their e-Pals. On January 31, 2011, students finally had the chance to meet their e-Pals in person.
Participants have found this program rewarding and enriching. Monument High School reflects the diversity of Boston's neighborhoods. The teachers are committed to providing Monument students with a stellar education, which is an especially challenging task given many students work to support their families, are learning English as a second language, are constantly moving (as their families move several times a year to find work), or are parents themselves. The drop out rate is high, with only an estimated 40% of students graduating. Even then, only 26% of graduating students go on to attend a four year college. According to teachers and the parents of students, this program, and the one-on-one relationships students form with their e-Pals, helps to keep students motivated--reading, writing, and aspiring to pursue college and careers in the legal community.
The program continues next semester with "Romeo & Juliet." At the conclusion of the next unit, Ms. D'Alelio will head into the classroom with a few other firm members to teach a lesson on courtroom advocacy with a little help from the film "My Cousin Vinny." The unit culminates with a mock trial in federal court on who's to blame for the deaths of the two star-crossed lovers in fair Verona. The firm's e-Pals will serve as jurors.