2017 Vincent E. Reed Award

U.S. Courts for the D.C. Circuit

For twenty-one years, volunteers from the U.S. Courts for the D.C. Circuit have mentored and tutored students at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Northeast DC. Most students at J.O. Wilson come from working and low-income families and the school lacks enrichment opportunities available in more privileged neighborhoods.

The partnership with J.O. Wilson includes the judges, clerks, staff of the Court of Appeals, the District Court and Bankruptcy Courts, and the U.S. Probation Office for the District of Columbia. Multiple times each month, judges and court personnel tutor students in reading, math, and other subjects. Volunteers also coach a Scrabble club that competes in citywide tournaments.

A highlight of the partnership is the field trip J.O. Wilson students take to the D.C. Circuit courthouse at the end of every year. The students love interrogating judges over lunch and observing the skills of the Deputy U.S. Marshals’ bomb sniffing dog. The U.S. Courts for the D.C. Circuit have also supported J.O. Wilson by raising money to remodel the library, throwing celebratory end-of-year parties, participating in school beautification projects, promoting a book club, and donating computers.

The longest-serving volunteer is Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, who has tutored students for 19 years. He sticks with a student or two for several years, until they graduate to middle school. He also encourages his law clerks to volunteer. “This is an opportunity to actually affect a child’s life,” says Garland. J.O. Wilson’s Principal Heidi Haggerty says that volunteers like Judge Garland can have a big impact on a student. She explained that, “It's very powerful for a child to have someone—an adult—that's important, and shows them that they're important.”

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee is honored to recognize the long-standing dedication of the volunteers of the U.S. Courts for the D.C. Circuit to the students, teachers, and school community at J.O. Wilson. Their commitment, creativity, and consistency have made a difference to the students at the school for more than two decades.


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