Inspiring Leadership: Mentoring High School Students

Law students are accustomed to rigorous coursework, challenging internships, and complex issues. This year, some will tackle an entirely different challenge: serving as grad mentors and supervising high school students during the annual BYU Civics, Law, and Leadership Youth Camp.

 “My role is to enable students to succeed,” said J.R. Iler, a third-year law student who was a grad mentor at the inaugural BYU Law Camp in 2017. “A lot of people have contributed to my life, and I want to give back to others.”

 Being a grad mentor for the BYU Law Camp is an immersive experience. Mentors spend the entire week with a group of 6-8 campers, who come from high schools across the United States as well as places as diverse as Iraq. Mentors engage with and lead camp participants at the various activities including moot court, a tour of the federal courthouse in Salt Lake, and negotiation training activities.

 Iler is returning as a BYU Law Camp grad mentor this year because he enjoys showing the high school students how they can make a difference. Many of the participants want to get civically involved but don’t know how. Iler wants to help them see they can impact the world and make a difference in areas that matter to them. “I really believe in this camp,” he said.

 BYU’s Law Camp is a pilot program sponsored by the Federal Bar Association. The concept met with wide acclaim. Judge Michael J. Newman, President of the Federal Bar Association, called it a “groundbreaking effort” and lauded BYU Law for its strong youth camp infrastructure. Chief Judge David Nuffer, an alum of BYU Law who helps facilitate the day at the federal courthouse, said, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these young adults.” Local lawyers and mentors who helped send participants to last year’s camp report that their students have shown increased involvement and improved academics at school.

 The experiences many of the camp participants have during the week cause them to change their perspective on life, law, and community. Iler said the grad mentor’s job is to build skills, instill confidence, and call the students to take action. For him, true accomplishment comes when the camp participants apply the skills they learn. He is looking forward to contributing again this year as he returns as a grad mentor: “I want to make camp even more successful.”

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