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Court Internships Offer Real-World Experience

Lauren Whitmire, left, and Tamera Owens, right, intern with Judge Brian Gary.

Lauren Whitmire, left, and Tamera Owens, right, intern with Judge Brian Gary of the 397th District Court. Courtesy/SHS

Growing up, Sherman High School senior Lauren Whitmire thought courtroom proceedings were dramatic and filled with shouts and tense moments like those from “Law & Order.”

“I definitely thought there would be a lot of arguing with lots of people in a big courtroom,” she said.

However, when she began her internship under Judge Brian Gary of the 397th District Court, she found reality didn’t match the silver screen.

“It’s small and usually quiet,” Whitmire said. “It was a little anticlimactic compared to what I expected it to be.”

Tamera Owens at her desk.

Whitmire, along with fellow senior Tamera Owens, have been interning with Judge Gary since August, an opportunity afforded to them through SHS’s criminal justice practicum. Other students have been interning with independent attorneys, the sheriff’s office and campus safety monitors.

“It gives them real-world experience in their career pathway,” said Michele Watson, Criminal Justice instructor. “I try to place students in internships that match their career interests at this point in time.”

Whitmire was nervous when she first stepped into the courtroom as a “teenager in a room full of adults,” but as she experienced more, the nerves lessened. She said the most interesting cases have been those involving jury trials, which are uncommon.

“I’ve only seen two jury trials at this point,” Whitmire said. “Those are a little closer to what I had seen on TV.”

The two students have watched various types of standard courtroom proceedings, both criminal and civil, and have even talked with court attorneys about working cases. Judge Gary also assigned them some administrative tasks and offered them his advice.

“Law school is expensive, and the career can be hard,” Whitmire said. “He said to be fully committed and willing to put in the effort to become an attorney, and I think it’s great that we have this opportunity to see if we want to fully commit to being an attorney.”

Although court proceedings aren’t always thrilling, Whitmire said the internship has strengthened her resolve to become an attorney.

“I have a better understanding of what my career would look like,” Whitmire said. “It helped in eliminating any doubt that I had and realizing that this is really what I want to do when I am older.”

Lauren Whitmire at her desk.

Judge Gary loves the idea of SHS students interning with community partners around Sherman.

“I think these types of internships are an excellent idea, and an invaluable way for students to gain meaningful insight into potential careers,” he said.

That is exactly the point of the internships, Watson said. Students have the opportunity to experience and explore a career field before they pursue it after high school graduation.

“I’ve seen students go out and come back because it wasn’t a good fit,” Watson said. “That’s why these internships are beneficial. It prepares students for what’s to come in that career or pushes them to a better-fitting pathway.”