New IMS Partnership Sparks Student Interest in Civics

DePaul seventh-grade students are learning so much from our sessions with Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts! They are pictured here with Deborah Gross Kurtz, CEO of PMC (left), and Sheryl Axelrod, Esq., Founder of the Axelrod Firm, P.C. (right).

Independence Mission Schools News

Independence Mission Schools has recently partnered with the legal nonprofit Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts (PMC) to provide an 8-week civics education program for middle school students—St. Raymond of Penafort, SS. Cyril & Philomena, St. Frances Cabrini, Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius of Loyola (OMSSI), and The DePaul Catholic School have pioneered this initiative. Since October 2023, 7th and 8th-grade students at these five schools were visited by lawyers and judges each month teaching them all about civics. 

In the first session, students learned about the three branches of government. They created new fictitious laws and learned what branches of government were responsible for the development and passage of the laws. St. Raymond students discussed what life without government would look like, and St. Frances Cabrini students explored what it would be like to ban cell phones. 

In the second session, they learned about the state and federal court system through “Judicial Jeopardy,” which broke down into categories the types of cases that each court presides over. OMSSI students enthusiastically discussed real court cases and learned about specialty courts. 

The third session discussed how judges are selected and appointed. The students participated as judicial candidates running to be a judge and voters deciding who to elect as a judge in a mock election. At  DePaul Catholic, this activity led to an important discussion surrounding real elections. Students asked about election night and discussed how elections promote representation of our community. The most recent session involved jury duty through a mock trial.

At SS. Cyril & Philomena, the mock jury had an animated deliberation over their decision. 

PMC’s program is unique in that its volunteer lawyers and judges bring unparalleled knowledge of the courts and government, and many of them have prior teaching experience. Students have been able to develop personal connections with their volunteer teachers and gain insight into their careers. When surveyed for their response to the program, more than half of students expressed an interest in continuing to learn about the topics they discussed in class. One student even wrote that the games and activities included in the lessons were fun and easy to understand.

PMC will continue its civics program through the rest of the 2023-24 school year, and IMS students will learn about special topics such as juvenile justice, environmental justice, the First Amendment, and more. To learn more about the PMC program, please visit