ANNAPURNA HOLTZAPPLE WILL never for get w at ch i n g her friend get sentenced. “ S h e w a l k e d a w a y i n handcuffs. This one night interrupted everything she’d been planning for her
future and her education,” says Holtzapple, 17.
What’s worse, Holtzapple was the victim,
having been hit by her friend’s car in a drunk
Fortunately, Holtzapple was not really injured
and her friend not truly prosecuted. The hearing
happened onstage during Teens & the Law, a community outreach program that the Marin County
Bar Association puts together each year with the
Marin County Office of Education.
A year after she participated in the dramatization, though, the images remain imprinted
in Holtzapple’s mind. The message that small
decisions can snowball into catastrophes has
also stuck with her.
“That was eye-opening,” the Tamalpais
High School senior says.
That is just the sort of epiphany organizers
Dorothy Chou Proudfoot and Charlie D. Dresow
are going for. This year, Proudfoot, a Marin
County deputy district attorney, and Dresow,
a defense attorney, are involving more teens
in the one- to-two-hour session because kids
seem to pay more attention when their peers
are involved. The first session was presented
at Tamalpais High School in October, and the
organizers plan to create similar programs with
students at Novato High School and San Rafael
High School later in the academic year.
This year the program again focuses on
the consequences of underage drinking and
substance abuse, because this is an area that
consistently lands Marin teens in court, the
“Marin County has a really acute drug and
alcohol problem. It’s rampant,” Proudfoot says.
“The teenage drinking problem has been among
the worst in the state for years.”
This year, the program’s plot revolves
around a house party where things get out of
hand — something that happened repeatedly
last summer in Marin.
“At certain key points of this evening we
show where things go south and let the kids
know how easily things can slide down to felony
charges,” Dresow says.
Students who participate or attend receive
credit toward the community service hours
required by schools to graduate. In addition to
the live vignettes, which culminate in a sentencing, student-made videos are also featured.
One myth that the organizers strive to
debunk is that Marin kids — many of them high
achievers — are immune from running afoul of
the law. These dramatizations show the audience that good kids like them can ruin their
lives without intending to do anything wrong.
“It’s more like, you got a scholarship to an Ivy
League school, but you start drinking and
steal something at a party and push someone,”
Dresow says. “Will you go to prison? Probably
not. But will your plan to go to college and play
in a sport be totally derailed? Yes.”
An innovative program helps teens think
through their actions before it’s too late.
BY CARRIE KIRBY