On Monday, June 2 Grant-White Elementary students welcomed Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke to their school.
Leading up to Burke’s visit, students had been studying the U.S. justice system.
Many of the students dressed up for the judge’s visit, donning button-down shirts and ties, or a nice skirt. School Citizen of the Year award winner, Yzabela Bishop, 11, formally welcomed Burke to the school.
Standing in front of the entire student body, who were seated quietly and cross legged on the library floor, Burke began by pulling out her robe. In unison students responded with an awed “ooooh.” Anthony Stewart, 11, was selected to wear the robe during the course of the presentation, and declared himself “Judge Anthony.”
Burke’s message to students was simple.
“Always believe in yourself,” she said.
Burke encouraged students to “always keep on reading,” adding that “you become something by studying.”
Through much of the presentation Burke explained exactly how the Illinois court system functions, how a case works its way up to the Supreme Court, and what it’s like to be a judge. She detailed how decisions are made and how the corresponding opinions are written. Burke also took the opportunity to dispel unflattering notions the children may have had regarding lawyers, noting that native son and former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, began his career as a lawyer.
“Things you learn about in school can seem so far away,” school secretary Theresa Giglio said. “The idea was to bring in a Supreme Court justice to give the kids a little more insight.”
When it came time to ask questions, students focused on their attention on the woman standing before them, more so than on the court system. She told the kids how old she was when she got her first job, when she went to school, when she became a judge, and that it is always difficult and nerve-wracking for her to make decisions because “people’s lives are at stake.”
The last student to ask a question inquired as to when Burke planned on retiring, to which she responded, “Retire? I just got started.”
To continue their study of the court system, Grant-White students are holding a mock trial of their own in which the fictional character Goldilocks will face charges for intrusion into the home of the three bears. The trial comes complete with student judges, lawyers, witnesses, a jury and a defendant.