High School Pathway Program for At-Risk Teens Receives $25,000 Grant

At-risk east valley teens will benefit from a $25,000 Coachella Valley Spotlight grant from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. The grant was awarded through a partnership with CBS Local 2 to Desert Center for Legal Education, for its Project #180. The pathway program at Amistad High School is a collaborative approach academy that gives at-risk teens the opportunity to gain hands-on legal experience.

The idea of Project #180 was born when Criminal Defense Attorney John Patrick Dolan read an article in The Wall Street Journal about an Inmate Debate Team that had won against The Harvard Debate Team at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from the nearby college.

“After a long impressive debate, the inmates prevailed in a very tough competition. For us, that story was the beginning of Project #180,” said Dolan, founder of Project #180 and dean of California Desert Trial Academy College of Law, where the students meet to learn about law and practice mock trial. “Our number one priority is to keep at-risk teens from committing crimes and subsequently entering the juvenile justice system.”

By offering an alternative program to the dangers of drugs, violence, gangs and teen pregnancy, Project #180 seeks to enrich young at-risk high school students mentored by judicial officers, police officers, attorneys, law students and Riverside County officials.

“High school pathway programs, such as Project #180, teach students real-life skills, which help students as they graduate high school and beyond,” said Catharine Reed, Program Director of the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation.

Desert Center for Legal Education will use the majority of the grant funds to pay for courtroom attire, books, transportation costs, mock trial competition fees, and meals for the participating students. The organization also plans on using the funds for gang prevention and intervention efforts.

“Programs like Project #180 are critical in intervening with young people who have been involved in gangs and ensuring they have the ability and encouragement to lead nonviolent, productive lives,” said Mike Stutz, General Manager of Gulf California Broadcast Company, which owns and operates CBS Local 2.

To learn more about the Project #180 Pathway Program through Desert Center for Legal Education visit www.cdtalaw.com.