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Home News-Telegram News Unexpected Benefits: Whitney Hu signed up for Teen Court to help conquer stage fright, but now she wants to seek a career in law

Unexpected Benefits: Whitney Hu signed up for Teen Court to help conquer stage fright, but now she wants to seek a career in law

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High school and college might seem a bit overwhelming for a shy person whose knees quake at the thought of having to speak in front of a room full of peers, but Whitney Hu avowed not to be intimidated.

In fact, with gumption, determination, supportive parents and her experiences from Teen Court, the 2009 Sulphur Springs High School graduate has become a successful debater and leader who thrives in her role as one of the top Business Professionals of America officers.

Hu conquered her stage fright and is now a well-traveled, poised young woman who used those very skills to land several scholarships and entrance to Coe College, where last weekend she began orientation for the fall semester. Hu plans to major in political science and economics, then study law with emphasis in child advocacy.

Although she’s lived in California and China, where he father worked for a Fortune 500 company, Hu calls Texas and Sulphur Springs home. She’s lived in Sulphur Springs since fifth grade and one day hopes to return to the Lone Star state and the town she calls home to grow a career in this little niche of the world.

She said she’d never have been as successful if her parents hadn’t continually encouraged her to reach her potential by immersing herself in whatever task she undertook and conquer her weaknesses.

“They’re like, if you want to know about something, don’t just read about it, go out and talk to people, get involved, find out everything you can about it, immerse yourself,” said Hu, who plans to work while at school and limit her involvement in school organizations to five — starting with Habitat for Humanity, helping rebuild homes during freshman orientation week.

Following her parents' advice, Hu signed up for UIL debate and poetry and Teen Court to overcome difficulty with public speaking. She had to give up debate her senior year in order to have time to compete in events and serve as a state BPA officer and still have time for Teen Court and school work.

“When I was elected state president [in BPA] was shocking,” said Hu, who this year will serve as national secretary, secondary division of BPA. “I had to thank Teen Court.”

She explained that Teen Court, where she nearly always served as an attorney, taught her how to work within a team, not just as a pair as in debate, to formulate arguments and talk comfortably in front of her peers, which she says is more difficult than talking at conferences to groups of 500 or more. You’ll never see the groups again, but have to face  our peers daily, she explains.

She said being an attorney her freshman year was tough, but thanks to the leadership of others involved, the friendly environment, great community support and helpful coordinators and board, she learned to have fun arguing cases.

It shaped her future ambitions. Trying Teen Court cases both as a defense attorney and prosecutor, she learned to like “the prosecution and state side,” which is “a lot harder than you’d think.”

Having to defend a student accused of punching another in class for talking about his mother taught her to broaden her view, to see things from different angles, to put herself in others' shoes and reminded her to think more globally.

The only time she made a plea agreement was based on her client’s unique choice of apparel — he thought wearing an exact replica of a Nazi soldier’s uniform was appropriate court dress. She knew that it’d be difficult for the jury to see past the outfit to any argument that might be presented, and a plea deal was reached, she noted.

“In the four years I think I missed one meeting,” Hu said. “I was extremely dedicated. It’s a really great program. I’ve enjoyed it greatly."

She even was part of a group of students that accompanied the Teen Court Board to Commissioner’s Court to petition them to allow Teen Court to be held in Hopkins County Courthouse. After getting signed statements that they’d be responsible — and support from local attorney and prosecutors, the sheriff and Texas Ranger — they were granted permission to hold Teen Court once a month in the court facility.

Hu said she really began enjoying prosecution, and knew she wanted to pursue a career in law, but wasn’t sure what area. After talking with Assistant District Attorney Samantha Crouch, she began to see that the prosecution side of things was more in line with her personal morals, even if it doesn’t usually pay as well as corporate law. She’s continued to explore the field in Teen Court and talking with local attorneys, and said she’d like to do something that will allow her to advocate for children.

She said aside from some wonderful teachers, UIL and BPA, and her parents, Teen Court has really defined her high school successes and helped set her on her current career path.

Her one regret about Teen Court was that her service had to end with her senior year of high school. But, she said she hopes to see the program continue and encourages all students to get involved. She said it’s not only a great growth experience, but it also is a great opportunity to become acquainted with and make friends from the participants of all social, academic and class groups, see the generosity of the people in the community who donate their time to oversee Teen Court, funds for scholarships like the one she was awarded this spring, and donations of food and other needs from businesses and individuals.

She also encourages anyone who is able to attend the Fall Festival Concert “God, Country and Rock ‘n’ Roll” on Sept. 19 in the Civic Center Auditorium. The $21 advance ticket price may seem like a lot, but will feature The Big Beats and God’s Big Band, and a portion of ticket proceeds will benefit Teen Court. For tickets to the concert, call 903-885-8071. For more information about Teen Court, call 903-885-8041, ext. 240.




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