Fourteen L.A. County youth enhanced their skills for the future by attending the Civics, Law and Leadership Camp at Brigham Young University.
The week-long event, held July 29 through Aug. 3, welcomed high school students from Pilgrim and Greater St. Augustine Missionary Baptist Churches along with scores of teens from across the U.S. to learn how to become positive change agents for their communities.
The curriculum covers civics, civic engagement and effective leadership as well as presentations from professionals in law and government. Students are also paired with law school mentors, enjoy field trips and participate in a range of interactive activities. The courses were developed with guidance and resources from the Federal Bar Association’s Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Among the attendees was Kaleah Sykes, a member of Pilgrim Baptist and 2019 graduate of Martin Luther King High School. She credited an increase in her self-confidence and public speaking skills to taking part in the camp for the past three years.
“I met so many new people. It was an interracial experience and you get to view other people’s perspective on different topics,” recalled Sykes, who will attend West Los Angeles College this fall and major in criminal justice.
“We did mock trials and moot court. I benefited from that because I don’t really like speaking in front of people and that forced me to actually speak my mind in front of people. Also, the counselors are really good here and I really have a fun time going every year,” she added. “It’s not the same thing every year.”
Her mother, LaShawn Chester-Sykes, noted that the BYU camp aids students in multiple ways. The youth learn about government and legal careers, they stay on campus in college dorms, and meet people from all walks of life.
“I think it is a wonderful program and opportunity for our kids, especially those who are in the inner city and haven’t had a chance to explore or travel out of Los Angeles County,” said Chester-Sykes, who directs the mass choir and sings with the praise team at Pilgrim Baptist.
“Regardless of the field that your child is interested in, the BYU camp teaches leadership, public speaking and interviewing skills. It is also really good to put on their resume and their college applications. It is an excellent program to be a part of.”
Chester-Sykes also acknowledged her pastor, the Rev. Dr. Albert Nicholas; the Rev. Dr. E. Wayne Gaddis, pastor of Greater St. Augustine; and Bishop Larry Eastland of the Church of the Latter Day Saints – Santa Monica Stake, for uniting to organize the trip. The total cost – including accommodations, meals, counselor supervision and activities – was free for the students, thanks to a scholarship through the J. Reuben Clark Law Society – LA Chapter.
Voicing his willingness to help the teens attend the BYU camp, Pastor Nicholas said, “We haven’t begun to live until the day we decide to live for someone other than just ourselves.”
To learn more about BYU Law Camp, visit lawcamp.ce.byu.edu.