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May 01, 2006

Northeast High Senior Wins Philadelphia Bar Association’s Chacker Essay Contest

PHILADELPHIA - Bernice Jean-Louis, a senior at Northeast High School, submitted the winning essay in the Philadelphia Bar Association’s 7th annual Edward F. Chacker Essay Contest. Open to all students of Philadelphia high schools (public, private, parochial or charter schools), the 1000-word essays were based on the thought, “If I could make up a law, it would be…” Students were asked to describe the law they would establish and explain why they chose that law. The essay also had to discuss how the law would change the author’s life or change the world.

Chacker, a founding partner in the law firm of Gay, Chacker & Mitten, served as Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 1999. A life-long resident of Philadelphia, he attended Olney High and has his undergraduate degree from Temple University.

“Bernice’s idea of giving was so different from the other essays,” said Chacker, who personally judged the contest. “All the others would create laws that would punish people for something. Hers would encourage people to do good, and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Jean-Louis said her law would mandate “each high school student would become a mentor to a student in middle school” as part of the graduation requirements. She reasoned: “with this law, we will be able to keep the children off the streets and give them something better to do. I feel this law will make Philadelphia and the United States of America a better place. I believe the guidance that will be given to the middles school children would be priceless.”

She read her winning essay at a naturalization ceremony for 100 new citizens of the United States on Monday in proceedings at the U.S Courthouse in Philadelphia. Jean-Louis resides in the Frankford section of Philadelphia with her parents Cadnuel and Dieudonne, both immigrants from Haiti who have since become U.S. citizens.

Jean-Louis, who plans to study criminology this fall at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was awarded a $1,000 college scholarship. She hopes some day to attend law school.

The essay contest and naturalization ceremony were held as part of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Law Week celebrations. Law Week 2006, which runs May 1-5, is one of the most ambitious public outreach efforts of its type in the nation, reaching out to thousands of citizens. Throughout the week, volunteer Philadelphia lawyers span out across the city, visiting with children in classrooms, welcoming new American citizens, inviting inner-city students into their offices, and much more.

Read the winning essay and see a photo of the winner with Edward Chacker. More information on Law Week can be found here.

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