Written by Helena Heath|May 19, 2018|News

PHOTO LEFT: One of the small group breakout sessions (L-R): NAWJ President Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy, New York State Supreme Court, New York County; three youth with Karonne Watson (sitting down, all black outfit), a member of the Capital District Black and Hispanic Bar Association; Hon. Rachel Kretser (Ret.), Chair of the Third Judicial District Gender Fairness Committee; and Mia Wolfe, a member of the Capital District Women's Bar Association.

PHOTO CENTER: NAWJ District 2 Director, Hon. Cenceria P. Edwards, New York State Civil Court; Judge Kennedy; and Hon. Helena Heath, Albany City Court.

PHOTO RIGHT: Albany Law School Staff Attorney David Craft, with Judge Kennedy and Judge Edwards.

On May 19, 2018, NAWJ District 2 Director, Hon. Cenceria P. Edwards, NAWJ member Hon. Helena Heath of Albany City Court, NAWJ member Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, Dean of the New York State Judicial Institute, and Pershia Wilkins, the Director of Multicultural Initiatives and Assistant Director of Admissions at Albany Law School spearheaded the first Color of Justice Program at the school. High school students who attended the program were members of the Capital District YMCA’s Black and Latino Achievers Program, which focuses on academic and personal achievement. Many the students who attended expressed interest in becoming an attorney.

The program kicked off with welcoming remarks from NAWJ President Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy, followed by an “Attorney Panel on Careers in Law” that Judge Heath moderated. The attorney panelists were Serena Joyce White-Lake and Madalyn Dethomasis, government counsels for New York State and the City of Albany, respectively; Lillian Moy, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York; and Albany Law School staff attorney David Craft. The panelists discussed the challenges they faced in becoming a lawyer and how they navigated through law school to overcome those challenges. The panelists also discussed the importance of time management and the need to develop strong writing skills for success in law school and as an attorney.

During the panel on “Pursuing Higher Education and Career Goals,” Pershia Wilkins, David Craft, and Capital District Women’s Bar Association President-Elect Ricja Rice addressed the resources available to high school students to prepare for the LSAT; pre-law courses and funding; and the panelists’ real life successes during college, law school and their respective legal careers. The Judges Panel, which Judge Edwards moderated, addressed the various courts that judges presided over and the impact a judge has on how justice is carried out in our society. NAWJ President Kennedy, Albany County Family Court Judge Richard Rivera, Judge Heath and NAWJ member

Hon. Rachel Kretser (Ret.) engaged in a lively discussion about their paths to the judiciary and they stressed the importance and benefits of the NAWJ Color of Justice Program to assist students with pursuing a career in the law.

We capped off the day with students, lawyers and judges discussing relevant legal and societal issues in seven small groups that Judge Heath organized which addressed topics such as, the students’ thoughts on the problems society faced to keep youth safe; the barriers to access higher educational opportunities; and the steps needed to ensure a fair criminal justice system. Three community leaders, including the Capital District YMCA Youth Development Director Anzala Alozie, Esq., also participated in these discussions. The students demonstrated immense poise and leadership in these discussions and one youth from each group provided an oral report of their small group sessions to the entire group. Some of the points raised in these discussions were that mentors and role models have a positive impact on a youth’s success; and the importance of knowing your legal rights and to advocate for such rights to improve one’s community.

Judges Edwards and Heath are grateful to NAWJ President Kennedy; NAWJ NY Chapter President Hon. Renee Minarik; Past NAWJ President Hon. LaTia Martin; Hon Juanita Bing Newton; NAWJ member Hon. Edwina Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives for the State of New York; and NAWJ Treasurer Hon. Kathy King for their assistance in planning this program. We also extend sincere thanks to our program sponsors: Albany Law School, Capital District Women’s Bar Association, Capital District Black and Hispanic Bar Association, Capital District YMCA, Third Judicial District Gender Fairness Committee, Law School Admissions Council Discover Law Program, and the New York State Courts’ Office of Justice Initiatives.

For more information contact the National Association of Women Judges at

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