Safe Travels Henry!

Sadly, we will be saying goodbye to Courthouse Program Manager Henry Schunk, who will be leaving staff at the end of the summer. He and his partner of five years, Caroline, are moving to Washington DC where she will be starting a new job with the Justice Department.

Henry was a jack of all trades here at our offices at the Moakley. Hired as the Office Administrator in September of 2019, Henry also led hundreds of in-person tours at the Moakley – sharing with visitors his love of the building’s architecture and its relationship to the ideals and principles of the justice system and our democracy,

Henry accomplished much in his three years here:

He developed Discovering Justice’s online tour of the Moakley, which provides an in depth look at the Courthouse from your desktop

He started the organization’s Events Program in conjunction with the Courthouse, bringing speakers to the Moakley to talk about restorative justice, the courts and the media, and the complexities of free speech.

He worked with Matt Wilson, Discovering Justice’s Executive Director to help create and recruit for the organization’s new Fellowship Program. Henry was the chief recruiter for that program and helped orient our 18 Fellows to the organization.,

And while he was not running these major projects, he was providing support to other staff with his online talents, writing and formatting this bi monthly newsletter for the past two years (!), sharing his love and knowledge of history, and infusing the staff with his passion for working for justice..

While the staff at Discovering Justice is sad to see Henry leave, we are excited to see what is next and how he uses his skills and talents to change the world.

Keep up the great work Henry!

-Matt Wilson and the whole Discovering Justice Staff

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Discovering Justice 2022 Annual Gala

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More than 250 Discovering Justice supporters gathered June 22 on a beautiful evening harborside at the Moakley Federal Courthouse Lawn to celebrate the organization’s 2022 Annual Gala: Connections and Community.

Led by Discovering Justice Board Members Abim Thomas, Louis Lobel, and Marieljane Bastien, the evening’s program highlighted the work of the organization’s programs at the Moakley Courthouse, with teachers in classrooms across the Commonwealth, and with legal programs through its Mock Trial and Mock Appeal Programs,

Introduced by U.S. District Attorney Rachael Rollins, the New England Innocence Project was honored as this year’s Champion of Justice with Executive Director Radha Natarajan and Coordinator of The Exoneree Network Sean Ellis delivering passionate talks about their work to free wrongly convicted people from prison throughout New England.

Lowell 8th Grader Star Nunez and Cambridge Kindergarten teacher Fabiane Noronha also talked to the crowd about their experience with Discovering Justice and the importance of the programs that help students explore the ideals of justice and learn how to advocate for it.

Thanks to our lead sponsors WilmerHale, Goodwin, Ropes & Gray, Vertex, EY, and to the hundreds of donors who attended, the event raised close to $400,000 to help fund the organization’s programs.

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Massachusetts Legislature Votes 33% Increase in Civic Education Funds

On Monday, the Massachusetts Legislature voted to increase funding to the Civic Project Trust Fund to $2M, increasing the amount of resources flowing into state and local education word choice?to develop and run civic education programs.

As Advocacy Chair for the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition (MCLC), Discovering Justice Executive Director Matt Wilson, helped coordinate a campaign this spring to increase the Commonwealth’s investment in civic education.

Wilson and Advocacy Fellow Ana Ali worked with the 50+ member MCLC coalition through the Legislature’s budget process to increase the money that needs rephrasing. Senators Harriette Chandler, Becca Rausch, and Representative Linda Dean Campbell led the successful campaign from inside the State House.

“Local school systems need resources to update their curriculum and prepare their teachers to teach students the skill they need to engage in civic activity. Thanks to the legislature for giving civic education a big boost for the coming year,” said Wilson,

In 2018, the Massachusetts Legislature passed, and Governor Baker signed, the 2018 Civic Education Bill that re-established civic education as a core subject for Massachusetts students and required them to do civic projects in 8th Grade and high school.

Massachusetts has long been ranked as having one of the top civic education programs in the nation, yet most school systems in the Commonwealth do not have comprehensive K-12 civic education programs. Many students do not have access to programs to learn the workings of our democracy and to develop the skills necessary to effectively engage in civic action. Gateway Cities, which have high BIPOC populations and have under-resourced school systems, are particularly in need of support and resources. In particular:

Few schools have comprehensive 8th grade civic project programs. Even fewer high schools have set up programs to meet the civic education project requirements of the legislation.
Most teachers do not have access to Professional Development for their civic education teaching.
School systems often lack access to quality civic education curriculum, especially in Grades K-5.
The Civic Project Trust Fund does not provide adequate resources for school systems to develop and implement their civic education curriculum. Over the past two years, only 32% of the grant proposals to the Fund were funded.

  • This $500,000 increase in the budget will be used to :
    Provide more local grants to help school systems set up and implement civic education curriculum and programs.
    Fund the creation of Professional Development Hubs, regional centers for K-12 community based professional development to help teachers effectively teach civic education.
    Work with DESE and others to create innovative curriculum resources for school systems for grades K-12.
    Work with our partners to support the Commonwealth Civics Challenge to showcase students civics projects which highlight student civic engagement.


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Civic Education for Elementary School Students

This year, dozens of teachers in Cambridge, Boston, and Springfield piloted Children Discovering Justice (CDJ) 2.0, the organization’s new K-2 standards-based civics curriculum,
Working with the Commonwealth’s youngest students, teachers engaged students in rich conversations about justice and fairness with CDJ’s culturally responsive curriculum and activities.
Fabiane Noronha, a veteran kindergarten teacher at the King Open School in Cambridge said, ‘“My biggest takeaway from Children Discovering Justice is that this curriculum is actually a framework for empowerment; an opportunity for educators and scholars to engage in a transformative human experience.”
Starting the Fall of 2022, Discovering Justice will make this curriculum available to all districts in Massachusetts, leading the way in making high quality civic education accessible to our youngest students. The curriculum is open source and available for free through Discovering Justice. . Every lesson plan is easy to implement with accompanying slides as well as printable, online, and seesaw versions of lesson activities.
Check out sample lessons: Kindergarten Module 1, Lesson 3: Injustice and Second Grade Module 3, Lesson 2. In the lessons you can click into accompanying slides, activities, extra practice, and ongoing tools including our 4 Steps: Justice Advocates Cycle (pictured below).

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Mock Appeal Program Visits Nine Courthouses Across the Commonwealth

Over the first two weeks of June, twenty-four mock appeal teams of Massachusetts middle school students presented their First Amendment cases in front of a panel of judges and attorneys as well as friends and family.

Grappling with the complexities of a case addressing a controversial speaker brought to a high school campus, student attorneys delivered oral arguments and fielded panelists’ questions – a difficult task for even the most experienced lawyer. In many cases, the panels were divided on whether to side with the petitioner or the respondent, a telling sign that both sides were balanced in their presentations and theory of the case.

“The time that the legal mentors and judges spend with the middle schoolers over the semester is invaluable. I never tire of seeing first time student attorneys make their case in front of the bench,” said Mock Appeal Program Manager Luke Matys. “Thanks to the courthouses and staff who partnered with Discovering Justice to open their doors to the volunteers, students, educators, and families.”

Working with courthouse staff, Discovering Justice hosted ten mock with more than 600 attendees at appeals at nine courthouses across the Commonwealth. Thanks to the Moakley Courthouse, the Lowell Justice Center, the Donohue Federal Building and US Courthouse in Worcester, the Taunton Juvenile Court, the Framingham District Court, the Springfield Federal Courthouse, the Brockton District Court, the New Bedford Superior Court, and the Brookline District Court for supporting these events.

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Visit Our New Office Space!

On February 16th, Discovering Justice Staff celebrated the opening of its new remodeled office space on the first floor of the Moakley Courthouse. After 23 years, working out of Judges Chambers on the third floor, we are excited to move into our spacious new digs which will be much more accessible to the public.

We invite Discovering Justice supporters to stop by the Moakley to see the new space and meet the staff.

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Kayla Nordman

Kayla Nordman believes strongly in expanding access to comprehensive civic education to provide the next generation with the resources they need to uphold and expand upon the values of American democracy and create a more equitable future. Before joining Discovering Justice, she worked as a Legislative Intern at the Massachusetts State House and as a Program Manager for the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education. Kayla graduated from Suffolk University with a BA in International Relations.