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Black History Month 2010: City Law School Program Praises Obama's Message Of Service

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As NY1 continues the celebration of Black History Month, the station profiles a summer law school program at John Jay College filled with students who are inspired by President Barack Obama's call for community service. NY1's Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.

About 60 students in the Ron Brown Summer Law School Program at John Jay College in Manhattan believe, among other things, in President Barack Obama.

"He's not taking a day off, which is what we need from the president," says Tyler Garvey, one of the program's students. "For us to be strong leaders, we need a strong leader in the White House."

The director of the program, Professor Jodie Roure, who is an Obama fan herself, tries to help the students understand that just as the president is a role model, they in turn can be examples in their own way.

"We are producing students who are conscious of Obama's message, who are instilling Obama's message in their lives, who are taking courses to empower themselves so they can empower their community," says Roure.

Community involvement was a huge part of Obama's message, and it resonates to this day with these students.

"A lot of us work at community centers. I've worked with senior citizens and also with at-risk youth and I think that's exactly what Obama's encouraging us to do," says student Crystal Jackson.

The program is named for Ron Brown, right, the first African-American secretary of commerce, who served under President Bill Clinton and was killed in a plane crash in Bosnia.

It is a two-year program for college sophomores and juniors, that services first-generation Americans and low-income students, who are under-represented in the field of law.

"This program has enabled me to know the steps I need to take to apply to law school and to successfully compete in the legal field," says student Zoila Castillo.

Roure says most of the students go on to be human rights attorneys, public advocates, defenders and prosecutors.

This program gets institutional support as well as money from the City University of New York's Black Male Initiative. However, because that money comes from the City Council, the legislative body's budget cuts may put the future of the program in jeopardy.

"Each year, we have to renew our grant. It's up in October and we're not sure if next year we'll get a grant," says Rebecca Landy of John Jay College.

The Ron Brown students are hoping they will get the grant, and say they would be lost without the program, which has inspired their current and future work.

While the president has taken some heat about his performance in his first year, the Ron Brown students remain strongly in his corner.

"When we do get down and we need someone to look up to and use as a really great example, he's somebody that we can point to," says Roure.

"I think he's doing a very good job," says Garvey.

To them, Obama is a man they can still believe in.

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