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Summer Mentoring in Legal Education (SMILE) Gwinnett began in 2016 as the brainchild of now retired State Court Judges Pam South and Joe Iannazzone. The program was inspired by a similar program begun by Judge Stacey Hydrick in DeKalb County. Since the program’s inception, high school students from all over Gwinnett County have spent Friday afternoons learning about the legal system and hearing from some of Gwinnett County’s most prominent lawyers, judges, law enforcement officers, and other legal office members.
The program is offered at no cost to students who will attend a Gwinnett High School the following year. However, students must provide their own transportation to and from the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center (GJAC) and any other locations the program meets at over the summer.
The program is staffed by volunteers working within the Gwinnett County legal community.
SMILE will give an overview of the court system and allow participants to spend time in the courtroom learning about the trial process, including a review of the United States Constitution and constitutional issues. Local lawmakers speak to the students on the legislative process and answer questions about running for office.
Students will tour the courthouse and other offices that serve the courts, which may include the medical examiner’s office, the Gwinnett County Detention Center (jail), and/or the Gwinnett County Police Training Academy.
Local defense attorneys provide an inside view into the world of defendants charged with felonies, with a focus on the consequences for teenage offenders. A panel of judges will discuss how to achieve a legal education and the various opportunities for a career in the legal field. Additional topics for students include dating violence and domestic violence and how the criminal justice system deals with alcohol and drug abuse.
At the end of the summer, we provide an evening graduation program where students receive a certificate and provide their own reflections on the program.
Summer Session 2024
2023 Session Graduates