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Service from the bench

Sarah David

Sarah David

In my experience running a volunteer group for the Kid Safe Zone I have met a lot of amazingly committed members of the Baltimore legal community.

For those of you who have followed this blog, I, along with several attorneys, run a volunteer project at the Kid Safe Zone at Penn-North to help teach the kids about different professions. When I put out the request for volunteers I expected to hear mostly from young lawyers but was surprised when I saw a response from Judge Diana Smith.

Smith, a veteran prosecutor and district court judge in Baltimore, said she would love to come and volunteer. Over the course of the past two years, Smith has come to the Kid Safe Zone several times. She has talked to the kids about her career path. She has invited the kids to her courtroom to help lawyers act out a trial. She has come to act out a trial at the Kid Safe Zone herself—where she invited one of the young girls to don her black robe and sit by her side in Gold E. Locks v. the Three Bears.

I reached out to Smith for this post because I wanted to highlight someone who has achieved so much professionally yet remains committed to serving her community. Smith said when she was appointed to the bench, she made the decision to do what she was passionate about: giving kids the vision of possibility. Smith came from real adversity and understands that people are not given equal opportunities to achieve.

“I want kids to see that someone, who has a background very similar to theirs, has accomplished her dreams and goals,” she said. “It’s a message that sounds generic and that they have heard before. I think the difference is that I am willing to get more personal and share with them some of my history. That usually shocks them and gets me their ears and then I weave in the importance of education, etc. It’s my own secret formula.”

Smith moved to Baltimore to attend Morgan State University and worked full time while attending the University of Baltimore School of Law.

“Being surrounded by people from different walks of life broadened my view of the world,” she said. “Having mentors who were genuinely interested in seeing me succeed helped me to see a better future for myself. I try to give to young people that same vision of possibilities that was given to me.”

When I started writing this blog, it was to highlight how volunteerism can be a part of your life, no matter what career path you choose. I highlight Smith to show how for some people, commitment to the community is ingrained in who you are. As a community, we should all strive to be the type of people who look back on where our lives were difficult and work to make those aspects of someone’s future better than our past.

Judge Smith may have a secret formula for inspiring young people but it is no secret why she inspires me: she embodies the passion and commitment for her work that she does for her community.