Leadership Program: Know Your Local Government Judicial and Prison System

By Adelaide Clemence, Hannah Hu and Crystal Wang

The Clemence Youth Foundation is a Greater Houston-based youth outreach organization that aims to enrich the lives of its members through unique and thought-provoking events. The program works to develop character and provide its young participants a chance to build social experience and leadership qualities. Allowing members to take an active role in their communities is a central pillar of the Foundation’s goals. Recently, members participated in an engaging and educational program introducing the Texas Judicial System.

On October 10th, the Clemence Youth Foundation organized a trip to the Fort Bend County Justice Center and a guided tour of the Fort Bend County Juvenile Detention Center. Led by Judges Christopher Morales and Walter Armatys, the group began with a detailed presentation of the Texas Judicial System. The presentation discussed all the intricacies of the Texas Judicial System, from the highest levels of the Texas Supreme Court to the lowest levels of county courts. While packed with a plethora of legal information, Judges Morales and Armatys captured the audience’s interest by inserting personal anecdotes and allowing for audience participation, which was particularly effective for the young audience. While the presentation was quick-paced, it was able to condense a multitude of legal information in a concise, comprehensible package.

The Clemence Youth Foundation with Judges Christopher Morales and Walter Armatys at the Fort Bend County Justice Center.

After the presentation, Judges Morales and Armatys opened the floor for questions. Members were able to think critically about the information and how they could utilize it in their own lives. Judges Morales and Armatys answered questions thoughtfully, drawing from their experiences to present a holistic viewpoint. Members were allowed to look around the courtroom and were even allowed to peer into the holding cells that would house potential convicts during trials, which was very exciting for the younger audience members.

Extending beyond the presentation of the Fort Bend County Justice Center was an interactive and educational tour of the Fort Bend County Juvenile Detention Center, which was especially poignant for the teenage audience. The tour coordinator led the group throughout the facility while explaining and describing how the facility functioned. It was well-organized and depicted a neat and orderly system designed to rehabilitate young people while providing a sense of normalcy. Those housed in the facility could attend school with the aid of Lamar CISD and be able to participate in animal and group therapy. It was interesting to see how the program functioned since the repercussions of juvenile incidents are often neglected. Many in the audience were intrigued by the amount of detail presented and the unconventional methods of rehabilitation. A notable moment was when the group learned about the animal therapy program. The animal therapy program serves the residents and a local animal shelter, as the residents can train and interact with dogs. Once the dogs are trained, they are returned to the shelter and are hopefully adopted.

Youth Coach Adelaide Clemence with Andy Wu and Brian Hu.

After an educational morning of tours, presentations and a fulfilling lunch, the Clemence Youth Foundation ended the day gliding on ice. While ice skating is a fun endeavor, this event also honed leadership skills, allowing those who were knowledgeable in skating to teach those who were not. It also strengthened communication between Clemence Youth’s members by putting them to the test in a low-stress environment. Spending the last part of the trip skating – or trying to skate – across Memorial Mall’s ice rink helped reinforce the importance of having fun when learning new things, whether one is learning law or how to do the perfect front crossover.

Overall, the trip organized by the Clemence Youth Foundation was unique in the way that it allowed members to gain an eye-witness experience in the Texas legal system. For many participants, this opportunity was the first time they had stepped into the courtroom. It would be a disservice to say that the trip was simply “interesting” as it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will create lasting memories

In summary, this experience was a great learning opportunity for the youth in the Foundation. The kids learned so much about our judicial system and skating! We would like to give a special thank you to Jing J.J. Clemence, along with all the Clemence Youth Foundation leaders and volunteers for arranging this wonderful trip, as well as a special thank you to Judge Christopher Morales, Judge Walter Armatys and the Fort Bend County Juvenile Detention Center.