The City of Allen is celebrating dozens of teenagers whose time and talents power Allen’s Teen Court Program.
The program allows teens to serve as defense and prosecuting attorneys, bailiffs, jurors and clerks in misdemeanor cases involving teenage defendants. Defendants who elect to handle their citation through Teen Court are sentenced to community service by a jury of their peers, avoiding fines and wiping their record clean.
“The great thing about Teen Court is that it really turns into a real trial,” said Allen Municipal Court Judge Cynthia Gore. “It’s not just a bunch of high school kids up there playing lawyer. These guys are actually doing it—and they’re doing an awesome job.”
More than fifty students completed training to qualify as teen court attorneys, representing at least one case in the previous year. Some dedicated 100 hours or more to the program, including Jennifer Wan (121 hours), Rupali Chowdhry (107 hours) and Yue Chen (96 hours). All participants were recognized for their service during a special program on May 13.
“Not only does volunteering help better your community, it helps better you as an individual,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gary Caplinger, who spoke at the recognition ceremony. “Volunteering can give you the opportunity to try something new, gain experience, develop skills, improve your career prospects, build confidence and meet new people.”
Judge Gore presented four students with the “Ready to Rumble” award, recognizing those who “really brought their ‘A’ game” each time they represented a case. Recipients were Jack McDonald, Jennifer Wan, Tajvir Singh and Chase Stevens.
Judge Gore also recognized Lily Rockwall and Sneha Nadella as “Rising Stars,” having risen to new levels in their skills compared to the previous year.
Six teens, split between two teams, represented Allen in a statewide Teen Court Competition held April 13 in Bedford. “Team Elite,” consisting of Jennifer Wan, Chase Stevens and Andrew Mao, placed second.
Judge Gore emphasized the lasting value of Teen Court, especially for teenage defendants who can “wipe their slates clean” through community service.
“The defendants who are taking advantage of this program wouldn’t have that opportunity were it not for all of these kids showing up [as volunteers],” said Judge Gore. “They see that they are cared about, that they are special.”