The Massachusetts Bar Association launched an innovative program
last month that teams up practicing minority attorneys with diverse
students in high school, college and law school. Aimed at giving
inner-city students opportunities in the legal community that do
not otherwise exist, the Tiered Community Mentoring Program has
been a longtime dream of Norfolk and Probate Judge Angela M.
"It's extraordinarily important because there are so many people
who don't have an acquaintance as a lawyer. There are also a lot of
students who write themselves out of thinking about (a career in
law) because they don't know the details," said Ordoñez, a
Framingham native and daughter of a single mother who didn't
consider a legal career until high school teacher Marion Goodman
brought up the subject. It was that teacher's husband, Natick
attorney Elliot Goodman, who served as Ordoñez' mentor.
The pilot program, which kicked off with a ceremony at the John
Adams Courthouse on Oct. 29, matches up four tiers of individuals:
practicing lawyers and students from Suffolk University Law School,
Roxbury Community College, and John D. O'Bryant High School in
All student participants have received honorary MBA
"I'm looking to make some connections with lawyers, judges …
anyone who is involved in the legal field in Massachusetts," said
Teresa DaVeiga, in her second year studying criminal justice at
Roxbury Community College with aspirations to attend Boston
University and Harvard Law before practicing entertainment law.
DaVeiga is grateful to Carol Liebman, coordinator of Roxbury
Community College's Criminal Justice program, who suggested she
join the program.
"It's a great opportunity for students to learn more about the
field and ask questions about what steps they have to take to get
where they want to be," said DaVeiga, whose mentor is attorney
Richard Gedeon at Carney & Bassil PC in Boston.
For Suffolk Law J.D. candidate Kristina Jean-Conte, being a part
of the program allows her to tap into her love of mentoring -
something she experienced during her undergraduate years at Boston
College - and establish relationships with professionals in the
"I hope to give (the students) a glimpse of the future,
encourage them and be there if they need someone to look to," said
Jean-Conte, president of the school's Black Law Student
A total of 40 participants have been matched into 10 groups,
where the lawyers will serve as mentors, the high school students
will take on the role of mentees, and students in law school and
college will take on dual roles.
"It's an opportunity not only for me to serve as a mentor, but
for all of us to serve as a mentor and a source of inspiration,"
said Kimberly Y. Jones, one of the mentors and co-chair of the
MBA's Civil Litigation Section. Among Jones' goals with her group
of all women is to help them see that the law is like a "buffet
table" of opportunities, as well as help them develop leadership
and public speaking skills.
"For me, it gives me an opportunity to grow and transform. We
never stop learning," Jones said. "These young ladies continue to
inspire me to do better."
Alexander Mitchell-Munevar decided to get involved in the
program because he knows mentors make a difference. Now a staff
attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, Mitchell-Munevar credits
Ordoñez with some of his opportunities and success. He was a clerk
for her while she worked at GBLS in the summer of 2002.
"I'm an example of the benefit of having a mentor. It was her
guidance and her mentorship that led me to where I am today,"
Mitchell-Munevar said of Ordoñez. He hopes to help the students in
his group in several ways, including helping them determine their
own definition of career success and serving as a resource.
"There's obviously an underlying desire to give back, but I
don't stop there," Mitchell-Munevar said. "Students, at all points
in their schooling, are filled with possibility and imagination.
That helps my own sense of inspiration."
Liebman said programs like this one are critical in ensuring
diverse students consider a career in the legal profession.
"Community college students routinely don't have the opportunities
to tap into networks of professional mentors," said Liebman, who
described 99 percent of her students as minorities. "Many are
intimidated by the process and don't have mentors."
Suffolk Law understands the importance of filling that gap, and
is excited about partnering with the MBA to participate in the
program. In fact, the goal of the program fits in perfectly with
Suffolk's own objectives, said Susan Prosnitz, executive director
of the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service.
"Suffolk as a university and as a law school is extremely
committed to ensuring diversity among its student body and serving
in a mentoring capacity," she said. "Having a diverse law school
environment and involving the school in initiatives that bring the
next generation of diversity to the law school is very
Ordoñez, who first got the idea for the program eight years ago,
is thrilled to finally see it get off the ground. She is eager to
see the program unfold, and hopes it can be expanded in the future,
both across the state and country. "It really does offer some real
life experience for people that they wouldn't get otherwise."