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What Is S.M.I.L.E. ?
S.M.I.L.E. (Summer Mentoring in Legal Education) Gwinnett is a program initiated by State Court Judges Pamela South and Joe Iannazzone in 2016.  With the assistance of Rebecca Streetman, Program Specialist for Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security at South Gwinnett High School, and Dana Pagán, a former teacher at Central Gwinnett High School and now a Gwinnett Assistant Solicitor, the program ran for seven sessions in June and July of 2016 and culminated with a graduation program for the students.

Over seventeen students from several area high schools spent Friday afternoons at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center learning about the legal system from lawyers, judges, police officers, and deputy sheriffs. 

The summer program began with a “lunch with lawyers” session hosted by the Gwinnett County Bar Association.  Students spent time in the courtroom learning about the trial process and performed a short mock trial.  Copies of the United States Constitution were given to each student and an afternoon was spent in discussion of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and afterwards, a state legislator arrived to speak to the students on the legislative process.

Students toured the courthouse, law library, Solicitors Office, and Clerk’s Office.  At a later time, the Sheriff’s Department provided lunch and a comprehensive tour of the jail and magistrate courts located there.

A local defense attorney provided an inside view into the world of defendants charged with felonies.  A panel of judges discussed how to achieve a legal education and various careers in the legal field.

The focus of the courts in recent years has been to provide treatment for drug offenders and DUI offenders, and a graduate of Drug Court spoke to the students on addiction and the criminal justice system.  DUI Task Force officers appeared and discussed the hazards of DUI’s as well as the complexities of DUI arrests.  A local police officer trained as a canine handler also brought a trained police dog to show the students how canines are used in drug detection.  Dating violence and domestic violence issues were also discussed by police officers with the students.

At the end of the summer’s program, a school counselor provided information on college applications and scholarship and loan information to students.  At an evening graduation program, students received a graduation certificate and provided their own reflections on the program.

This program was inspired by a program begun by Judge Stacey Hydrick in Dekalb County State Court several years ago. 

This program is offered at no cost to the students and is staffed by volunteers. The process of S.M.I.L.E. Gwinnett 2017 is beginning. Students must provide their own transportation to the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center for the afternoon sessions.