Daniela Sanchez ’24

Berkshire Juvenile Court, Learning Intervention for Teens, Pittsfield, MA

The Berkshire Juvenile Court works with children and teens throughout Berkshire County, with their main offices stationed in Pittsfield. I had the opportunity to intern under Probation Officer Shannon Mauer, who has the unique position of traveling between the Pittsfield and North Adams juvenile courts. Some of my intern privileges included attending court hearings with her, running files between the clerk magistrate and Probation during court hearings, and reading case files.

My primary objective throughout this internship was to get some gears moving for LIFT (Learning Intervention for Teens), a court-ordered mentorship program that is co-sponsored by Williams and the Berkshire Juvenile Court and is run during our winter term. The goal of the program is to show teens involved in the system alternative pathways to success. Every probation officer at the juvenile court is in charge of leading a court-ordered program such as LIFT, but the Covid-19 pandemic shut most of them down. However, one probation officer led a shorter version of Shakespeare in the Courts, where teens in the system are allowed to put on a Shakespeare play as an alternative to a sentencing. I had the opportunity to sit in on one of their sessions and see firsthand how these types of programs work.

Other work included helping create a more interactive questionnaire for the intake form, creating a reference guide for Williams mentors to better understand the types of cases that get processed at the juvenile court, doing research for future training materials and—perhaps the most helpful of all—setting up a meeting with former LIFT leaders Nick Goldrosen ’20 and Marissa Shapiro ’20. They gave incredible advice on how to improve mentor training by emphasizing peer support networks, how to have a productive discussion between our Williams mentors and Pittsfield Chief of Police Michael Wynn, and what to look for in our mentor applications.

Another project I picked up was translating some documents into Spanish, specifically to help with Child Requiring Assistance case intakes.

Overall, I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to deeply understand the work I am furthering this upcoming year. I made wonderful networks and learned a lot about the Berkshire Juvenile Court’s goals and inner workings. Additionally, this internship opened my eyes to a career in criminal justice. As an American studies major, I know there are a lot of careers available to me, but it was reaffirming to actually be able to see myself in, say, a probation office. I am excited to continue this work and for the opportunities that are to follow.

I would like to give special thanks to the Estate of George Mead and to Dawn Dellea and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making this internship possible. And thank you to Paula Consolini and the Center for Learning in Action department more broadly for putting me in contact with Probation Officer Shannon Mauer and for helping me secure transportation to and from Pittsfield every day.