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  • Writer's pictureIlena Alvarez

The Docent Life

Updated: Jan 2

Docent (defined): an individual with an academic appointment for the institutions they serve.

Our Speaker Series is up and running and doing fantastic! For February, we had the pleasure of hosting Michael McKeich, who represents the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. He taught us all about Palm Beach during the Gilded Age. How fun is it to learn the history of places right in your backyard. Immediately, after Mr. McKeich's presentation, attendees flocked to our bookstore in search of books about Henry Flagler and the like.

Mr. McKeich had me thinking about docents and their esteemed position in society.

They come in all shapes and sizes, with varying backgrounds, and expound their knowledge for a variety of institutions, and to a differing set of audiences.

While in law school, I was fortunate enough to live and attend school in Lansing, Michigan. Since Lansing is the capital of Michigan, the Lansing Mall connects the Michigan Hall of Justice (Supreme Court), the State Capitol Building, Lansing City Hall, Michigan Treasury Department, Michigan History Center, and the Michigan Vietnam Veterans Memorial--it is quite impressive.

Because of the government buildings' proximity, the Mall saw many schoolchildren on its grounds because it provided a day full of learning about the branches of government and history.

I quickly found out, around my 2L year, that the Michigan Supreme Court was in need of docents. The Hall of Justice created a Judicial Institute, so kids had a space to learn inside the building. We were just a short stop on their field trip and as they entered the structure, the students admired the architecture and immediately quieted down, as if they innately felt the reverence required.

After our brief introduction at the main entrance, I would lead them to a small theater where they would watch a short movie outlining why the justice system exists and its importance in the government. To make sure they were paying attention, I always asked them questions about what they just learned and was surprised by how intrigued they became over the court system. We then moved on to a mock courtroom, where there were television sets displaying snippets of the Judges explaining how cases arrive at the Supreme Court.

The children loved it and when I became a docent, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I would teach children of all ages, from kindergarten to seniors in high school. It was interesting to see the levels of enthusiasm, or lack thereof, as they walked through this pristine and important structure.

I am even featured in this July 22, 2010, Detroit Legal News ARTICLE with the heading, "Volunteer Docents Honored for Work with Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center."

If you have time and love to impart knowledge, becoming a docent is a wonderful way to give back to the community. It is a fulfilling job which I highly recommend.

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