Young legal eagle to wing to D.C.
De Soto High School junior Molly McKechnie's argumentive nature provided a clue to her career path.
"My sophomore year I got into debate because I figured I already liked to argue with people so I thought I might enjoy it," McKechnie said. "I loved it right away, and then debate got me to start thinking about getting a degree where I could argue cases for corporations. I hope that I can find a way to make it happen. "
The path to that goal would be a law degree, something McKechnie wants to pursue. She will get a leg up on that ambition as De Soto High School's representative at the National Youth Leadership Forum on law Feb. 10 to 15 in Washington D.C. McKechnie was selected for demonstrating academic achievement and an interest in the legal profession. Her English teacher, Kathryn Reddy, who knew of McKechnie's fascination with the legal process, nominated her for the trip.
"In a way, this trip will be the start of getting me prepared for next year when I'm really getting ready to leave for college," McKechnie said. "I'll be doing this next week. The ACTs start in the spring, and applications for schools begin in the fall. It's all very exciting."
McKechnie will join about 350 other high school juniors and seniors from across the country at the law forum. With the trip less than a week away, she is nervously anticipating her first law seminar and a chance to travel alone.
The trip, however, would not be a vacation, McKechnie said.
"It's not going to be a time for high school kids to be wearing tennis shoes and shirts with logos," she said. "Every day, from 9 to 5, the expectations are for us to be in professional dress and behave (accordingly)."
McKechnie will have the opportunity to exercise the same skills used by Supreme Court justices to rule on the key issues through mock trials. The forum will offer students the opportunity to learn directly from private-practice lawyers, criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors, as well as university professors and other experts in the legal profession.
McKechnie hoped the forum served as a launching pad for her future academic and career pursuits.
"The professors there are going to be giving us advice on what we need to be doing our senior year and what classes we need to be in," McKechnie said. "I'm getting my schedule set up to take college credit courses at both De Soto High School and (Johnson County Community College)."
The curriculum for the forum is based on real life events. Throughout the forum, students will be asked to examine how court cases shape our legal system.
Participants will be asked to view issues from the perspectives of attorneys, judges, and court officials.
"I'm really looking forward to arguing in the mock cases and also visiting four different law schools while I'm there," McKechnie said. "The hands on experience I'll get and the knowledge of whether I really want to do it as a job is what makes the trip so great."
National Youth Leadership Forum is a nonprofit organization (www.nylf.org) that has the students visit several law firms and area courthouses, including the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Superior Court and various county circuit courts..