George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other incidents have exposed teenagers to racial injustice, police brutality and other issues in American society. Now, social justice is driving these some of these young people towards a career in law. A'zaria Taylor is a high school senior at Henry Ford Academy, a charter school in Detroit. The 17-year-old girl said some of her classmates talk a lot about law, but few see it as a viable option as they plan for college. "Many students want to have a voice," she told Detroit Free Press. "It's something that could affect them."
A major company is seeking to make those students on the track towards a law career, according to Detroit Free Press. Ford Motor Company and its charity, the Ford Motor Company Fund, partnered with the Henry Ford Learning Institute to create a four-year program called the Ford Law Academy. The new program will begin at Henry Ford Academy with plans to expand to University Prepatory Academy in Detroit in 2021 and possibly nationwide.
The law program will be an elective like language classes, art and computer science. It's designed for about 30 students a year, starting in 9th grade. Topics including criminal law, estate law, tax law, copyright and patent law, contracts, entertainment law and personal injury law are all present in the program. Ford lawyers will also be coaching students.
Bradley Gayton, who came up with the program, said he wanted to give students a glimpse of law practice early. Like other courses and programs, it'll help them decide whether they want to pursue the career or not. Gayton was a general counsel at Ford and left the company after 30 years; he now works at Coca-Cola.
The program also aims to diversify law practice. Gayton and Alison Nelson said they wanted to help inspire children who look like them. "Only 5% of all lawyers in the U.S. are Black, according to a 2020 report from the American Bar Association. The percentage has remained unchanged over a decade while the African American population is 13.4%," Detroit Free Press reported. Even though the number of Black law students has grown since 2011, the number of practicing lawyers has remained static, according to the association. Non-white lawyers make up 15% of all lawyers in the United States, they added.
"All too often, I hear that a company is committed to diversity but there aren't enough diverse qualified candidates. We simply cannot accept that as a dead end. Inside our respective companies and industries, we must look to the root of the problem and put in the work to fix them," Gayton said.
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