Robert H. Jackson Center

The Robert H. Jackson Center

2015 Young Readers Program with Author Charles J. Shields


Author Charles J. Shields

Charles J. Shields, author of Mockingbird a Portrait of Harper Lee, addressed over 500 area students for the Robert H. Jackson Center’s eleventh annual Young Readers program on May 13, 2015. Each year, the Center partners with the Law, Youth and Citizenship Program of the New York State Bar Association to bring a young adult author to the Center in celebration of the important contribution young people’s literature makes to lifelong literacy, education and good citizenship.

Since the publication of Mockingbird, Mr. Shields has spoken to thousands of readers across the country and abroad. His biography of Ms. Lee, the first ever published, became a New York Times bestseller and was a Literary Guild Selection, and a Book-of-the-Month Club Alternate. His young adult biography of Harper Lee, I Am Scout was chosen an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and a Junior Literary Guild Selection. His student presentation focused on how he became a writer, why he chose to write a biography on Ms. Lee and the surprises he encountered along the way.


Essay Contest Winners pictured with Tom Schmidt, RHJC & Martha Noordsy, Program Director Law, Youth & Citizenship of the NYSBA and Charles J. Shields

In conjunction with the author’s presentation, middle school students were invited to participate in a statewide essay contest based on Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Essay contest entrants were asked to tell how Ms. Lee’s character, Atticus Finch challenged the forces of racism and discrimination while also explaining the importance of Ms. Lee’s novel to their own lives.

Three New York State 8th grade students were recognized for their winning essays at an awards dinner hosted at the Jackson Center. Each winner was presented with a $250 cash prize, a certificate, and autographed copies of Charles J. Shields’ Mockingbird in recognition of their winning entries. The contest winners were: Ariya Roberts, Casey Middle School, Williamsville, NY; Della Knapp, Heim Middle School, Williamsville, NY; Kristal Grindley, Milton L. Olive Middle School, Wyandanch, NY.

Equality has long been a struggle for African Americans. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee describes this struggle through the eyes for a young girl, using her innocence to expose an issue that is both simple and complex at the same time. In the story, Atticus Finch defies societal customs and expectations by defending an African American man, who is accused of a violent crime. Atticus Finch challenges racism and discrimination not by protesting or activism, but simply by doing his job and living his life.
Ariya Roberts, Casey Middle School, Williamsville, NY

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird tells a story of controversy and strength. Specially, one man’s courage to take a stand against the forces of racism and discrimination. This book is aout Atticus Finche’s attempt, through Tom Robinson’s trial, to protect the due process of law and basic civil rights, especially the right to a fair trial by jury. The message affects many people’s lives, including mine, and touches everyone in a different way.
Della Knapp, Heim Middle School, Williamsville, NY

To Kill a Mockingbird is about growing up with racism, discrimination and deciding whether or not to follow the crowd. This book was written over fifty years ago yet, sadly, racism and other forms of discrimination still exist. As an African American and a girl this is appalling to me on so many levels. I believe with the right support and resources anyone can stand up against inequality like Atticus.
Kristal Grindley, Milton L. Olive Middle School, Wyandanch, NY

Sponsored by: New York State Bar Association Law, Youth & Citizenship Program; Shults Management Group; Bloomquist Landscaping; Campbell & Shelton Law Firm; Double A Vineyards; Evans Discount Liquors and Wines; Jamestown Mattress; Safety Compliance; Serta Mattress; Shawbucks Press Room, Restaurant ; Southern Tier Pediatrics; Weinberg Financial Group and The Stanley A. Weeks, Robert H. Jackson Fund and the Paul W. Sandberg Fund with the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. With a special thank you to volunteer coordinator Paul Lombardo!

2015 Teacher Fellowship Program


2014 Teacher Fellows

Robert H. Jackson Center is now accepting applications for its 2015 Teacher Fellowship Program. The Fellowship program is designed to develop a community of skilled educators who will collaborate with the Center to create quality educational materials that meet common core standards and can easily be incorporated into classroom curriculum.

Training for the Fellowship will be held July 20th- 23rd. The Fellowship program will immerse participants in the life and work of Justice Robert H. Jackson, so that they may in turn share his legacy with their students, colleagues, and communities. Topics that will be explored are the Supreme Court, human rights and international law.

Applications are due by Monday, June 12th, 2015 by 4 p.m.

Applications may be submitted by email to or by mail The Robert H. Jackson Center 305 E. Fourth Street, Jamestown NY 14701

  • 2015 Teacher Fellowship Application (100.68 KB)
  • Information, Requirements & Expectations for the 2015 Fellowship  (122.51 KB)