At Chester High, Peers Do Each Other Justice

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Mari A. Schaefer | May 19, 2015

Jamar Saunders had a D average and was in a Chester gang. Brian Foster had a quick temper and was prone to settle disputes with his fists.

That was six years ago, before a session in court changed all that. In their cases, it was the Chester High School Youth Court.

They say it gave them second chances, introduced them to mentors, and improved their communication skills.

Now those erstwhile self-described "troublemakers," the two Chester residents are back in court. This time, however, it is as Chester High Youth Court advisers. And their involvement has cemented their friendship.

They hope to make a difference in the lives of current students, some of whom are from troubled families in a city where a third of the households live below the poverty level.

Youth courts - in which trial-like proceedings are held in classroom settings, and students serve as attorneys, judges, and jurors - have become popular locally and across the country, and there are plans to create at least 10 more in the region....