Photo courtesy UTEP | Note: Photo taken before social distancing rules were in place.
A career in law is one step closer to reality for six Franklin students thanks to a partnership between EPISD and the University of Texas at El Paso, which is preparing the high-schoolers to become certified paralegals.
The six seniors, enrolled in Franklin’s legal studies pathway, are nearly finished with the online course, which was contracted through UTEP and conducted by JER Online Workforce Certification and Courses. The students expect to take the certification exam in the coming weeks.
“These certifications help elevate the offerings of programs for future students at the magnet school, make them better prepared for their field of study and employable right out of high school,” said Franklin assistant principal Gabriela Marquez. “At the current time, we are the only high school in El Paso and only one of three for the entire state that offers such a program since there are typically barriers that prevent high schools from being able to take part in certification programs such as this.”
Marquez worked on the collaboration with the UTEP’s Continuing Education Department to find a way to be able allow students to complete the certification while still enrolled in high school. Tom Lott, who spent 28 years as an FBI agent before becoming a teacher, facilitates the certification course at Franklin and is currently preparing them for the certification exam with materials he receives from JER.
“It’s set up online but during class time we go over the chapters and discuss it,” Lott said. “It’s a tremendous amount of reading but they are excited and motivated to finish this course. “
The total cost of the program is $1,400 per student. Franklin covered half the cost and students made payments to cover the balance. Marquez said they are working with UTEP to find financial assistance for those students who might not be able to pay – especially considering that next school year enrollment is expected to jump to 30 students.
Despite the cost, the students know the advantage the program gives them for their future.
“My love and passion for law is what made me decide to take this paralegal certification course,” said Ashley Alanis, who is currently interning at the Law Offices of Michael J. Zimprich, PLLC. “The paralegal work has helped me tremendously. When I’m speaking to the lawyers at the office I am able to understand legal terms that I normally wouldn’t have known.”
Alanis, who’s interested in medical malpractice and business law, plans go to UTEP and eventually Baylor University to complete her degree and law school.
“I know this internship will help me a great amount with my law career because this internship has prepared me to be able to talk to real clients, handle real situations that would happen at a law office and have experience in the office,” she said.