Most of the time, when a judge gets questions by people sitting in the jury box, it’s for further directions regarding jury instruction.
Judge Pamela A. Ruest fielded different kinds of questions on the bench Tuesday morning. A group of adolescents seated in the box and elsewhere in Courtroom 1 cross-examined the jurist on being a judge and choosing a career. The youth were part of a program for 12 through 16 year olds called “Blueprint for Success,” designed to provide a glimpse at various jobs available in Centre County.
“It’s a career exploration program,” said Holly Stoltzfus, a career consultant with the Private Industry Council of the Central Corridor in State College and one of the program’s organizers. “For two weeks, we expose them to different careers and industries to help them make career choices.”
The group takes trips to various businesses and locations around the county, like Metzger Animal Hospital, Ferguson Township Police Station and WHVL-TV, to see what different types of jobs entail. The group also takes classes on leadership, teamwork and public speaking and are visited by people from various professions. Guests include Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, who will talk to the students about government later in the week, and a local musician.
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The trip to the courthouse was one the group had taken during previous years of the program that had been very popular, Stoltzfus said.
Ruest answered questions on her job and what led her to that position. One thing Ruest told the children was that it was OK to change their minds when deciding on a career, and cited herself as an example. She got a degree in biology from the University of Connecticut in her native state and thought she’d go to medical school. She then got a master’s degree in statistics before deciding to go to law school.
“There’s a lot of different pathways to becoming an attorney, then a judge,” Ruest said.
The participants also heard from other court personnel about their jobs and things they like about working at the courthouse during the visit, which lasted a little over an hour.
Brittany DeGirolano, Ruest’s court reporter, showed off the special keyboard she uses to record court proceedings and talked about some of the requirements and training that goes into being a court reporter. DeGirolano told the children the job allows her to do something she likes while providing a variety of experiences.
“I hear all kinds of interesting things,” DeGirolano said. “I can listen to that and also get the chance to type.”
Juvenile probation officers also talked to the youth about what they do and showed off things they use for their job, like GPS bracelets used for electronic monitoring.
Some of the children said programs like Blueprint for Success have already helped in steering them toward a career.
Bryce Herman, 15, of Bellefonte, said he had thought about a career in law enforcement or criminal justice, but after going through the program before, decided it wasn’t for him because of some of the negativity associated with working around crime. Instead, he said he would like to pursue a career in either kinesiology or finance.
Megan Stoltzfus, 13, of State College, agreed with Herman. She said that learning about the law was cool and informative, but she didn’t think a career in law enforcement or as a judge would be something she would be interested in.
Making choices involving children, like Ruest and other judges have to make during custody and family court proceedings, would be tough, she said. She said she is thinking about another career involving kids: teaching. She said she thought she would like DeGirolano’s job, though.
“You could listen to the cases, but you wouldn’t be involved in making all the decisions,” she said, while still playing an important part.
The group’s next stop is at PMG Pennsylvania Corp. in Philipsburg on Wednesday, where they’ll learn about manufacturing. The program wraps up at the end of next week at a presentation when the students show off the speech skills and talk about what they learned. U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, will be in attendance as keynote speaker.