GLENSIDE – The Eagle has landed in Clearfield County – the Legal Eagle that is. The Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies will be honoring Clearfield County Legal Eagles and its founder, attorney Mark Falvo, with a 2008 PCSS President’s Award at the 55th Annual PCSS Conference Oct. 16-18, 2008 in Gettysburg.
The inspiration of Falvo, Legal Eagles was started in the fall of 2001 with the support of the Young Lawyers Division of the Clearfield County Bar Association and Clearfield County Crime Stoppers. It was initially offered to Clearfield Area Senior High School underclassmen and Curwensville Elementary School fifth graders with the goal of providing a civic education curriculum including responsibility to children across Clearfield County.
Today, the program is targeted at the late elementary school students, reaching almost every fifth grader in the region. PCSS President David Trevaskis, a lawyer and civic educator who has presented programs to Legal Eagle classes, noted the importance of Falvo’s work with young students:
“There is a dearth of good civics curriculum at the elementary level and Falvo’s program has filled that void in a powerful, interactive manner. As a former elementary school teacher, I would have loved to have this type of program available to my students. Today, as I work with Pennsylvania First Lady and Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Midge Rendell and her PennCORD effort to promote the civic mission of schools, I applaud the commitment of Falvo and his numerous volunteers and supporters to educating our next generation of citizens.”
After nearly seven years of action, Falvo remains the wizard of Legal Eagles. He has brought together a wide range of program supporters, many of whom have ventured into Clearfield County classrooms as outside resource persons to spread Falvo’s message of positive citizenship.
“I might be the man behind the curtain but this program runs because of many people,” says Falvo
Think of a law-related professional—from state trooper to Secret Service, from lawyer to judge – and Falvo has guided representatives from those fields into the local schools. He has brought sports figures and astronauts into those classrooms, as well, since Falvo recognizes that others beyond the legal profession can-and do – influence kids to make good choices. Legal Eagle presentations at individual schools are scheduled throughout the year and Falvo organizes a dizzying array of speakers fro the local schools.
Flavo also fundraises significant donations from near and far to add the little touches – school t-shirts, Legal Eagle team pictures – that build the sense of community that his program seeks to create for the Legal Eagle students. Walk into a Legal Eagle school and you can see a history of the program through framed pictures of past teams. You see the future of the program in the crowd of students asking you to autograph their proudly worn Legal Eagle t-shitrts.
In addition to the content and the funds, Falvo provides the “fun.” His presentations to area children often involve costumes – not content to just invite mascots from area schools and professional teams in to celebrate the students, Falvo can be seen at times in front of the students dressed as a pirate or a parrot, cheering the youth on to become the active and involved citizen that he and his guest speakers model.
Falvo will be honored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association for the seventh consecutive year at the end of February when the PBA holds its Conference of County Bar Leaders. Falvo’s program has been featured by the PBA’s Law-Related Education Committee as a program for others communities to replicate. Cloning Falvo may be the only way to make that happen!
Falvo continues to evolve his program. Legal Eagle students from St. Francis and Curwensville have visited the Clearfield County Jail and Clearfield County Courthouse. At the courthouse the Legal Eagles were treated to historical presentations and a mock trial from Judge Paul E. Cherry and President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman.
The program teaches the values of citizenship while opening the eyes of students to possible careers in the law. Now active in seven of the county’s eight school districts, Legal Eagle enrollment this year will top 1500 students. If the cloning works, Legal Eagles will reach even further in the coming years.