The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 9, 2012

‘Day in Court’ essay winners feted by Conneaut Rotary Club

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — A morning spent in Conneaut Municipal Court recently translated into cash and a free lunch for six local eighth-graders.

The Conneaut Middle School students — Jake Kehoe, Danielle Hall, Cimarron Barnes, Alexis Nelson, Crystal Rawlins and MacKenzie Carraher — wrote the best accounts of the mornings they spent watching the legal system in action as part of the Conneaut Rotary Club’s “Day In Court” program. At a special awards luncheon at the Conneaut Arts Center last week, each student read aloud their work and accepted a cash prize.

Once a week during the fall, every eighth-grader in the school is bused to City Hall and spends a couple hours watching Judge Thomas Harris and his staff deal with an array of criminal and traffic cases. Afterwards, the students write essays about their observations. School staff read the essays and single out the most note-worthy for Rotary prizes.

The program recently wrapped its 24th year — all with Harris at the helm.

“Every year the essays are very good and the club members enjoy hearing the essays,” he said. “All the kids who win are nice kids who write well.”

The essays usually touch on some of the most noteworthy cases the students observed, such as the woman who chalked up her brush with the law to a “ghost-hunting” expedition. Others can be more heart-felt, including the student who was startled to see someone he knew stand before Harris as a defendant.

More than 4,200 students have participated in the “Day In Court” program since its inception 24 years ago. Is anything special planned for the big 25th anniversary year?

“I want a cake at the awards luncheon,” Harris said, laughing.