“The moment I got involved in the Marshall-Brennan Project, my life changed,” said Viviana Andazola, who was a 10th grade student at York International High School in the Mapleton School District during the 2011–12 academic year, the first year of Colorado Law’s Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project. “I now have a brighter vision for my future.”
For Viviana, Marshall-Brennan came at a time when she was realizing that she needed to turn her life around. “My early years at home and in school were really hard, and I didn’t handle it very well. My father wasn’t around, and my mother had a hard time keeping a job and always seemed to have problems,” Viviana explained.
“Then one day I realized that the only way I was ever going to be able to take care of myself was to work really hard, to do well, and stay in school. Fortunately, Colorado Law students came to my class during my sophomore year and I found something that I was extremely interested in participating in.”
Through the Marshall-Brennan Project, Colorado Law students Angela Banducci (’12) and Johanna Blumenthal (’12) were assigned to spend one day each week in Viviana’s civics class, teaching about the Constitution, the U.S. judicial system, and the Supreme Court decisions that are most relevant to high school students. Banducci and Blumenthal also worked with Viviana and her classmates to prepare a moot court appellate argument. This gave the high school students an opportunity to use the constitutional principles they learned in class to make legal arguments and to practice their public speaking skills.
In January 2012, Viviana was one of about 40 students who came to the Wolf Law Building to participate in the first Colorado Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition. When she walked into the building and saw all of the competitors from other schools in Denver and Thornton, Viviana remembers being really nervous. “I was fearful of my competition and I didn’t know if I would be able to remember all of the best arguments.” Viviana explained. “But each time I presented my argument, I became more confident.”
At the end of the competition, Viviana learned that she was one of the top 10 competitors. As a top competitor, Viviana had earned a trip to Washington, D.C.–supervised by Professor Melissa Hart, Director of the Byron White Center and the law student coaches–to compete in the National Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition. While she was in D.C., in addition to competing, Viviana met Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor and visited museums and monuments. For Viviana and most of her peers, it was their first trip out of Colorado.
“Travelling to Washington, meeting a Supreme Court Justice, and recognizing the importance of the legal issues we were learning about really transformed my ideas about what I wanted to do, and what I could do,” said Viviana. “The support I have received from Professor Hart and the law students has helped keep me focused on my long-term goals.”
In December 2013, Viviana learned that Yale University had accepted her application. She will matriculate in the fall of 2014. After Yale, Viviana hopes to go to law school and dreams of someday representing Colorado as our governor.