By Chloe L. ’24
One of the unique aspects of the way Poly academics are structured is that they create space and time for students to foster and develop their specific interests that go beyond core curriculums and on-campus electives.
Through Poly’s partnership with Global Online Academy (GOA), a “nonprofit organization that provides online classes, workshops, and other educational resources for students and teachers,” Poly encourages students to not only pursue current interests but also to reach outside their comfort zones and connect with people outside the Poly community.
From September to December of this year, I participated in a semester-long GOA course titled, “Prisons and the Criminal Law.” Looking back on my experience now, I can safely say that enrolling in that class was one of the best decisions I have made since starting at Poly in seventh grade. I learned a ton about the criminal justice system, yes, but I also made some genuine connections with students who live on the other side of the world.
The class was set up to be a balance of video conferencing and communicating on virtual discussion boards, emphasizing the value of effective communication and flexibility in academic environments. We were all in different time zones. Some days, I would have a Zoom meeting scheduled for 6 am on a Saturday (which, yikes!), but everybody knew that their peers were making sacrifices to learn with and from them, so it made our time together that much more valuable.
During my time with this course, I was fully immersed into the legal world and pushed to develop my own ideas and opinions on the state of our justice system.
I watched old courtroom tapes from the 70s, read excerpts from Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
, combed through federal prison recidivism trends, analyzed inmate demographics, compared and contrasted the varying judicial systems across the globe, debated the effectiveness of sentencing minimums, learned about the future of A.I. in our courtrooms, participated in a supreme court trial simulation, listened to an investigative podcast series on the power dynamic between prosecutors and defense attorneys, and discussed the root problems contributing to police brutality in the U.S. and how we can combat those injustices.
For our culminating project, we were instructed to reflect on everything we had learned throughout the semester, highlight one social justice issue that stood out to us the most, and do something about it. Whether it be through written letters to local legislators, a social media campaign, a website, a presentation sent out to a governor or mayor, or a poster hung up throughout your community, we were pushed to not just educate ourselves about the injustices in the world, but take the next step to fight against them.
Seeing and discussing all the projects my peers created, learning about the issues that are personal to them and their countries opened up my thinking entirely and forced me to take a wide variety of perspectives into consideration. It is easy for people to trap themselves in a bubble, content to remain in an echo chamber of ideas and opinions, which is why I think this experience was so important and so impactful for me. In order to progress as a society, it is vital that we step outside ourselves and listen to people who are unlike us.
This class, although a large commitment, has fueled my interest in forensics and criminal law by tenfold. If you’re reading this as a prospective Poly student, or a current one, I strongly encourage you to look into the GOA program. It has done nothing but inspire me to continue to seek out the truth and pursue my passions.
Explore some of our final projects here: