Nassau County Bar Association helps students reach their full potentials


The Nassau County Bar Association is committed to keeping the future of students on Long Island bright, promising and rewarding.

Through its Student Mentor Program, students from several county districts have the opportunity to meet on a bi-weekly, individual basis with attorneys, who offer everything from guidance to casual discussion, catering to the needs of many, at various grade levels and stages in both their school career, and adolescence.

Alan Hodish of East Meadow is a personal injury, criminal law, and education law attorney, who created the program 27 years ago. Before he went into law, he taught for 20 years at Jackson Main and Ludlum Elementary School in the Hempstead Union Free School District. Ludlum is now Barack Obama Elementary.

After becoming an attorney, he reached out to the bar association to see if it would be interested in starting a mentor program, and what began in Hempstead schools almost three decades ago has expanded greatly.

This year’s mentorship program culminated in a luncheon May 23 at the bar association’s headquarters on 15th Street in Mineola. Participating schools included W.T. Clarke and Woodland middle schools in East Meadow; Great Neck North and South middle schools; Schultz Middle School and Barack Obama and Jackson Main elementary schools in Hempstead; Jericho Middle School; Turtle Hook and Lawrence Road middle schools and Grand Avenue School in Uniondale; and Westbury Middle School.

“The feedback is tremendous — the kids have a good time,” Hodish said. “There is no better way to culminate than with this luncheon.”

Social workers from each of the participating schools choose students in grades six through eight, who they feel would be a good fit for the program. Following parental approval, they are paired with a mentor — an attorney in the bar association — who visits the school bi-weekly to meet with their student.

“Some of the things we talk about is just conversation,” Hodish explained. “In other words, it could be (Aaron) Judge, who’s the baseball player for the Yankees, it could be Taylor Swift, or it could be a movie they’ve seen. It’s really about nonjudgmental speaking to youngsters.”

Dorian Glover, a mentor in the program and a past president of the bar association, said even though the program is rewarding for students, the mentors get a lot out of it too.

“I feel every time I mentor, I receive more from the experience,” he said. “It keeps you connected, but you’re also learning how bright they already are.” 

District court judge Maxine Broderick,  who also grew up in Hempstead, has participated in the program as a mentor for the last eight years.

“I’m a judge with a criminal caseload,” she said. “So, as you can imagine, that’s a fairly serious undertaking. And being able to go to the school in the mornings before I start my court calendar is really very uplifting. It’s a breath of fresh air — the students are very attentive. We’ve never had any kind of disciplinary problems, which I wouldn’t expect that we would.

“We just talk to them,” she added. “We all have a good time.”

Broderick said they discuss legal concepts with students, such as search and seizure, social media use, and the three branches of government. Something else she is focused on with sixth graders is bullying.

“I’ve advised them to just look out for each other when they get to middle school,” she said. “To just be present — to let that person know that you care about them, and that the school that they’re coming from is its own little community, and to look for community wherever they go.”

Bar association president Sandy Strenger congratulated each of the participating students for taking part in the program at the luncheon.

“And to all of the mentors who are here today, thank you for volunteering your time, for spending time with the children and doing all these wonderful things that you do,” he said. “I think it just wonderful what has occurred here, and what has occurred here for the last 27 years.”