Second-Year Law Student Fills Need for South Dade Senior High School Students

The Criminal Justice and Legal Studies magnet partners with Miami Law’s Black Law Students Association mentors.
Second-Year Law Student Fills Need for South Dade Senior High School Students

BLSA members Courtney Dash (front, left to right), Brandi Griffin, and Lizzy Stewart. The back row is Joshua Hicks (far left), with South Dade High School students, and Michael Birts Jr. Esq. (far right).

Second-year law student Courtney Dash has long been moved to mentor. The South Dade Senior High School students' Legal Studies and Criminal Justice magnet was a natural fit with Miami Law's Black Law Students Association. Dash found a pathway for BLSA members to connect with high schoolers interested in law.

"I started this program with BLSA this year when I became president," says Dash, a Daytona Beach, Florida, native, who is complementing her work as a student legal intern with the Children & Youth Law Clinic. "This year, I wanted to start this mentorship program because community service is important to me and it is a large part of what BLSA does, not only at a local level but regionally and nationally, and I believed a great way to give back was to mentor kids in high school that are interested in pursuing a career in the legal field."

Heather Rodriguez, who teaches the law studies program at South Dade, told the South Dade News Leader that she is pleased that the law school students are willing to work with the high school. She believes her students will learn what to expect during their undergraduate years in college and what it takes to get accepted into law schools.

"These are excellent students, and it is good that they have the goal of going to law school. It is good they will receive mentoring from fellow students who have overcome challenges to get into law school," said Rodriguez.

"We visited the mentees at South Dade for a 'Breakfast and Learn' event where we had an opportunity to meet the kids in person, tell them about our experiences in high school, undergrad, and law school," said Dash, who previously has guided children in the Tampa Bay area's Giving God the Glory, where she mentored and tutored middle and high school students. She has also mentored middle and high school students through the Young Ladies and GENTS program in connection with the National Council of Negro Women. "We were able to speak with them about what they're interested in, and what their goals are."

Michael Birts, Jr., a NBPA certified agent and sports attorney, is from the Homestead area and works closely with Joshua Hicks, a local organizer, participated in the "Breakfast and Learn." The students could ask Birts questions about his law school experience and career, and he could give them advice.

The University of Miami Black Law Students Association Robert H. Waters Chapter is named after the law school's first Black law professor. It is an affinity group that seeks to help mentor, empower, and equip Black law students to succeed and give back to their community. It also serves to help increase awareness in the legal community about the peculiar intersection of race and law.

South Dade High School student Tamia Monroe wants to help people who have struggled with the legal system. "I want to be a judge. I want to help Black people and those who have not been treated fairly by law enforcement. I want to be an advocate for these people," she told the South Dade News Leader. "It will be good to be mentored by the Miami Law students."

Dash was a summer intern at the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office in 2022 and is currently continuing her work there. She has conducted legal research, drafted memoranda relating to felony offenses, observed court proceedings, and assisted a supervising attorney in conducting client interviews.

"My goal for this year was to create an environment for Black law students and allies to feel supported within a tight-knit community," said Dash. "With the help of our executive board, we have created opportunities for members to network with legal professionals in Miami-Dade, as well as give back to the community. We have had a very successful year so far and we are excited for the things we have planned for the rest of the year."

Read more about Miami Law's student organizations.