By Alyssa Schnugg
It was pajama day at Oxford High School and students giggled at each other’s outfits in the hallway. However, once the bell rang and they walked into John Booth Farese’s Street Law class, it was all business.
Each student greets Farese with a firm handshake and a “good morning.”
“I teach them to look people in the eye and greet people with a strong handshake,” Booth said. “Even after this class is over, they’ll still come up to me and shake my hand. You do anything every day for a few weeks and it becomes a habit.”
Farese, an attorney for more than 40 years, has been teaching the street law class at OHS for three semesters; however, he has volunteered to teach similar classes in various schools for the last couple of decades.
“(Superintendent) Brian Harvey enthusiastically approved my offer to voluntarily teach at Oxford High School,” Booth said. “Former principal, Bradley Roberson, and current principal, Chandler Gray, both provided the assistance and support needed to successfully afford the students the opportunity to learn the ‘life skills’ necessary to navigate the complex ‘real world’ issues they will face after their formal education has ended.”
The class is offered to sophomores and topics include what to do when a police officer pulls you over and your rights, marriage and divorce, renting an apartment, buying a car, dealing with problems on a job and workers’ rights, wills and property law, setting up bank accounts and other life skills.
“I view my role as a mentor instead of a teacher,” Farese said. “I want every single student to learn how to be a better person, a better citizen, a better employee, better husband or wife, a better friend and make the world a better place.”
Farese is classified as a volunteer guest lecturer for English and law OHS said teacher Ryan Bankston who oversees the class.
Last Monday, it was marriage and divorce day with the students discussing the top reasons people get divorced.
“How can most of these issues be worked out?” Farese asked the class.
“Communication,” they replied.
“Communication,” Farese said nodding. “Talking it out.”
The class takes frequent trips to law-related venues like the Lafayette County Courthouse, Drug Court and the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs.
Every day students must bring to class news articles so that they will become informed about what is happening in the world outside their myopic view.
“This has created an increase in their ‘curiosity quotient,’” Farese said. “They are seeing the bigger picture.”
Sophomore Jake Kamman said he took the class after a friend recommended it to him.
“It’s helped me learn a lot about different legal issues and how to handle real-world situations,” he said.
Kayla Corban said she took the class to help better understand the law. She’s considering going into the military after graduation.
“I want to know what my rights are and what the laws are so I stay out of trouble,” she said. “I’ve also considered going into law.”
Farese said being involved in the street law class is his way of giving back to the community and he strives to give each student the confidence and information needed for them to succeed in life.
“Of all the things I have done in my life, I consider my teaching these young students my greatest accomplishment,” he said.