INDIO — A new program involving local high school students is trying to help youth succeed.
The priority is to help students that may be at-risk because of grades, poverty or other issues at home.
The program is giving teenagers aged 15 to 18 in local continuation schools an opportunity to learn life skills, and the law.
California Desert Trial Academy and its founder, KMIR Legal Analyst John Patrick Dolan, started the program called Project 180.
A 180 is defined as a complete reversal in attitude or opinion.
The idea of Project 180 is to help students get on the right course, and practicing law in a mock trial program.
"I was grade deficient, but coming here I’m really close to graduating, a couple classes and I’m done. Right now I am welder with my grandpa, and I want to pursue something in law," said Amistad High School senior, Samuel Zazueta.
Zazueta wants to work as a prosecuting attorney.
That’s what Judge Otis Sterling was before he was appointed to the bench.
He worked hard to get where his is today.
"I was the product of parents who had issues with drugs and drug abuse. We had issues of violence at home and being shipped off to foster care," said Hon. Sterling.
From that childhood in Riverside, he went on to become one of the youngest judges in California.
"I like to share those type of things, because I want kids to know that even though you feel those type of things at a young age, if you just persevere they’re not going to affect you and prevent you from becoming whatever you want to become," said Judge Sterling.
Amistad High is a continuation school; and it’s been recognized as one of the model continuation schools in the state.
"These are some of the best students in the Coachella Valley that have come together for a great program, they’re learning so much each and every day," said Amistad Principal David Gustafson.
California Desert Trial Academy is supporting the program.
Judge Sterling hopes they students learned a big lesson, "They say hey, I can do that too, and this is one of the things I look forward to more than anything."
Samuel is setting his sights high, and hoping their group will go all the way to the national mock trial program at Harvard University.
"Harvard is a big goal of ours, we’re hoping to get there one step at a time, but I think as a group, we have a beautiful group and I think we can do it."