Project LEAD Graduates 25 Students in the Municipality of Bayamón

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FILE PHOTO: The DOJ logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference in New York

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico– Last December, a total of 25 students from the Epifanio Fernández Vanga Elementary School and the Mariano Feliú Balseiro Middle School in Bayamón graduated from the Project LEAD school program in a ceremony held in U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.  In August of 2021, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico began a 20-week school curriculum in both schools. The curriculum focused on the legal and social consequences of juvenile crimes and included techniques to help students resolve conflicts and resist peer pressure. Assistant United States Attorney Kelly Zenón Matos was the facilitator in charge of leading the weekly sessions with the students.    

Project LEAD (Legal Enrichment and Decision-making) was established in 1993 by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Constitutional Rights Foundation.  Its goal is to teach children that the choices they make today can affect their lives forever. An evaluation of the program conducted by Bernadette Chi, PhD and Ellen Middaugh, M.A. of the University of California, Berkley showed that Project LEAD provides:

The USAO launched the program in two public schools in Loíza in December of 2020. The USAO translated the Project LEAD program into the Spanish language and tailored the curriculum to focus on situations that youth in the District of Puerto Rico are likely to encounter.  The 20-week curriculum, taught by AUSA Kelly Zenón, focuses on the social and legal consequences of juvenile crimes, such as truancy, illicit drug use, shoplifting, graffiti, animal abuse, and bullying.  Project LEAD also teaches students techniques to resolve conflicts, resist peer pressure, promote tolerance and respect for diversity, and the role of education to achieve economic stability.  Students also learn about the federal and state judicial systems, including how each operates, and the roles played by prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and defendants in the litigation process.  The curriculum concludes with the students’ performance of a scripted mock trial, putting into practice what they have learned about the criminal justice system. 

United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico W. Stephen Muldrow stated: “We are very proud to continue this program despite the constraints imposed during the pandemic. We are grateful for the schools and the parents who trusted the USAO personnel along with other state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, to provide the students with the skills and experience to evaluate challenging situations and help them make good decisions.”

This Project was possible with the collaboration of many federal and state agencies. Special thanks to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico; Federal Public Defender; PR Department of Justice; PR Department of Education, in particular, the personnel at the Bayamón Regional Office; U.S. Marshals Service; PR Police Bureau; PR Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; Administration of Juvenile Institutions; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Anti-Bullying 10-8 In Service; and Common Cause for Paws.

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