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Judge takes award program to heart

By Linda Laderman
Legal News

Sixty-seventh District Court Judge Herman Marable Jr.’s Student of the Month program recently reached a milestone, by naming the 100th student to receive the award.

“Guided by my citizens advisory committee, sophomore Kierra Washington, 16, of Flint Northwestern High School was chosen as the 100th Student of the Month in February,” Marable said. “We also selected Dylan Hernandez, 17, currently a junior at Luke M. Powers High School in Flint as the Student of the Year.”

Motivated by a desire to send a sustained message about the importance of school to students and families in the Flint-Genesee County communities, Marable established the program in 2004.
After the end of the school year, one of the monthly awardees is selected as Judge Marable’s Student of the Year.  While the Student of the Month receives a $75 award, the Student of the Year receives $500.

The prize amount is donated solely by the judge.

“During the first years the money was derived from my karaoke winnings, but as that waned I continued to fund it from my own pocket,” Marable said.

The program aims to encourage Flint area high school students to focus on achievement in school and setting professional objectives, Marable said.

“Flint is economically depressed and we don’t have enough kids going to college,” said Marable. “In some schools the drop out rate is more than 60 percent. That’s the backdrop for some of our students.

“When I started the program I was inspired by two different things, academics and professional objectives,” said Marble, a former assistant prosecutor. “I thought it was crucial to send a message to the community about the importance of education and setting career goals.

“It’s sad to say that in some quarters it is just not cool to do well in academics, so I try to stress the importance of education and staying on track,” Marable said. “Too often the kids who are getting the attention are the ones who are in trouble, the ones who I see in my courtroom.”

Only high school sophomores are eligible for the Student of the Month and Student of the Year awards, primarily because that age group is historically at a pivotal juncture in their education, Marable said.

“Kids used to be able to drop out of school at 16. Now the law requires them to stay in until they are 18.  I see tenth grade as a critical time for them. During the freshman year colleges do not take grades as seriously as they do during a student’s sophomore and junior years. That’s when the grades are most significant,” Marable said.

Besides being required to be a high school sophomore, students need to live and regularly attend school in Genesee County and write an essay explaining why they should receive the award.
Because the recognition plaques are displayed on a wall in his courtroom, young people in trouble often spot names of kids who attended school with them.

“When that happens I tell them that their names could have been on that wall too if they’d made different choices,” Marable said.

Marable takes his advocacy for education beyond the Student of the Month by giving students a sense of what a college experience feels like.

“We consistently arrange trips to Michigan State University for our students,” Marable said. “MSU picks the kids up, where they experience college classes. Most importantly, MSU organizes meetings for them with admissions people. It is very powerful for a 10th-grader to hear that college is achievable.”

Marable celebrates the significance of the program to the community.

“I feel good about it. Have we saved the education system in Genesee County? No. But have we been able to encourage young people to go forward? Yes,” Marable said.

From time to time, Marable runs into some of the students whose names are inscribed on his wall.

“It’s interesting because occasionally I’ll get a phone call or run into one of my past students,” Marable said. “It’s fascinating to watch them grow up and see what they are doing. I’ve even performed weddings for two of them.”
 

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