MIAMI – Students from BridgePrep Academy of North Miami Beach took a field trip to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida to learn how to make better choices and participate in a courtroom mock trial.
The seventh graders gathered in the media room where Law Enforcement Coordination and Community Outreach Section Chief J.D. Smith took them through presentations focused on the value of making smarter choices and having a plan for success.
“You should know every step you need to take to reach your goals,” said Smith. “Don’t be afraid to fail big. Think outside of the box and remember that a goal without a plan is just a wish.”
To drive home the point of making smarter choices Smith played prisoner testimonials which focused mostly on regret.
“I ruined my life,” said one prisoner. “I ruined it.”
Another testimonial showed a prisoner pleading for people to take his message seriously.
“I killed someone’s father,” he said. “This is my now moment but I took away that man’s now.”
The messages seemed to hit home with the students, especially when they were told where the Federal Detention Center was located.
“There are about 600 male inmates and 100 female inmates in the building next door,” said Smith. “You have a choice to be a good person or a bad person. Every day it starts all over again. Don’t let bad things determine your path in life.”
From there the students filled a federal judges empty courtroom where they played the roles of prosecutor, defense attorney, and bailiff, among others. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gilfarb played the role of judge as students argued a case involving the wrongful death of a university student who died during flag football practice.
Both the prosecutors and defense team made great cases, but in the end the evidence was too strong. The defendant was found guilty of negligent homicide.
Students said they enjoyed seeing what it was like to be on trial while others said it was a life changing experience. Many said they’d like to do it again. That’s what Smith likes to hear as he loves interacting with young people, trying to put them on the right path.
“These activities can be fun—and many times are—but I’m always focused on trying to help these students be the best citizens they can be,” he said. “As a former Detroit Police Supervisor, I’ve seen how tempting it can be to get in with the wrong crowd. One mistake can alter a life for good. If I can help change one person’s outlook then it’s worth it.”
Law Enforcement Coordination and Community Outreach Section Chief J.D. Smith talks to BridgePrep Academy of North Miami Beach students about the importance of making good decisions. Students also participated in a mock trial during this field trip.