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Moritz institute for high-schoolers inspires Florida program

July 12, 2012 | Alumni

From earning badges as a Girl Scout to earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award as an undergraduate at University of Florida, Roshni Baldeo Phalgoo ’10 has always had a strong commitment to community service.

It, however, wasn’t until she attended The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and participated in Columbus’ Law and Leadership Institute, LLC that Phalgoo said she realized she could make a career out of her service.

“Service has always been a huge part of my life,” Phalgoo said. “I had always been involved in nonprofit organizations, but I never really understood that I could turn that into a career. I always thought that was just something you do on the side.”

Established in 2008, due in part to a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation, the Law and Leadership Institute (LLI) “provides legally-based academic instruction and leadership training” to more than 400 high school students in Ohio to prepare them “to achieve the scholastic success needed to ultimately obtain a law degree,” according to the organization’s website.

Phalgoo participated in LLI as a student teacher for 10th-graders in her third year of law school.

“Once I got involved with the Law and Leadership Institute I said to myself: ‘I’m so happy doing something like this and being able to take my interests in the law and apply it to a service-oriented program,’” Phalgoo said. “I loved the law aspect of the program, and I graduated law school knowing that I wanted to bring a program very much like that to Miami, which is where I grew up.”

Phalgoo founded her own nonprofit organization, Inspired Leaders (iLead), last year in the coastal city.

Now, just weeks from launching a two-week pilot program with iLead’s inaugural class of rising ninth-graders, Phalgoo said, “Inspired Leaders is not officially affiliated with Law and Leadership, but the program is my inspiration.”

iLead is a program intended specifically for “high-performing students who are in low-performing neighborhoods” in Miami, Phalgoo said. The program teaches high school students law, provides leadership training, and has them engage in community service, in an effort to prepare students for a law degree or pursuing other degrees in higher education.

“The whole point was to target this population and make sure that they’re given an extra opportunity to learn academic skills through the law,” Phalgoo said. “The law is something these neighborhoods don’t have a lot of experience with on a positive end. A lot of these students only see things that happen on TV … or run-ins with the law in their community.”

The program, envisioned to be held five weeks during the summer and 10 Saturday mornings during the school year, is designed to teach students four types of law over the course of their high school careers: criminal law, civil law, constitutional law, and international law.

The model of the program and development of the organization came together with the guidance of LLI executive director Hope Sharett ’03 and board members Carl Smallwood ’80 and Professor Emeritus Nancy Rogers.

Setting iLead apart from LLI, Phalgoo incorporated what she said made one of the greatest impacts on her growing up: community service.

“I (think) community service really grounds an individual to the neighborhoods they come from. Civic pride develops. It’s just a positive thing to put on to a young person,” she said.

By Sarah Pfledderer