Law Day offers students a glimpse into local government |

Law Day offers students a glimpse into local government

Behind bars, but only for a moment: students learn about the Grand County jail and meet the sheriff's department.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

On May 4, many students found themselves behind bars at the Grand County Jail – but they were innocent. This was part of Law Day, where elementary school students head to the county seat in Hot Sulphur Springs to learn about the most important institutions in Grand County.

Students from West Grand, Fraser Valley and Granby elementary schools all participated, meeting with people who keep Grand a safe, just place to live.

The centerpiece of Law Day is meeting the judges and other courtroom officials who are part of the 14th Judicial District. As students arrived and filed into benches in one of the courtrooms, Judge Mary Hoak told them they were participating in a national celebration of government. She said that Law Day could even shape the students’ futures, inspiring them to one day be behind the gavel.

“There’s someone very special that you all are going to meet today … who as a fifth grader, came to Law Day,” Hoak said. “That person came to Law Day and said, I want to work here, this is what I want to do. And that person did. They’re extremely excited to be participating in Law Day for the first time.”

This former student was Maria Piceno, who now serves as a Grand County probation officer. Piceno oversees individuals under probation, ensuring they don’t commit additional crimes and can possibly return back to society as law-abiding citizens.

Hoak then recognized Fraser Valley Elementary teacher, Nicole Cimino, who was present with her fifth graders. Hoak explained that Cimino had an important connection to Law Day – her husband is Rich Cimino, a county commissioner who the students would meet. Plus, Nicole’s father, a former judge, brought Law Day to Grand County.

“Law Day isn’t just something we do in Grand County,” Hoak added, explaining that the day is celebrated by the American Bar Association. “The president of the United States entered a proclamation on May 1 that we should all recognize Law Day. There’s no other field trip that you’ll go on that’s sanctioned by the president, so it’s extremely important.”

Then she released the students to explore the world of local government and law enforcement. Inside the building, children toured the courtrooms, probation room, juvenile services, and held “moot court,” which was a mock courtroom proceeding. The Grand County commissioners also told the students about the work they do on behalf of their constituents.

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Chad Rizzuto answers kids’ questions about his job keeping the roads safe.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

Outside, Colorado State Patrol Trooper Chad Rizzuto answered questions about what is was like to be a first responder dedicated to keeping the community safe. Students asked Rizzuto what his worst crime has been, and how fast he has driven during car chases.

“Honestly, part of the reason I like working out here is we don’t have to deal with a whole lot of horrible crimes,” he said, adding that in both his car chases, he has gotten up to 140 mph.

Grand County EMS workers were on the scene too, describing their role to the students. Paramedics and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) are the first people to arrive at an accident, keeping injured or ill persons stable as they transport them to the hospital. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife deputy taught kids about the animals that call Grand County home, providing a variety of antler sheds.

Kids could also step behind bars at the Grand County jail. They learned what life was like for inmates held at the jail as they wait for their court date. After the kids spent a few minutes in the small cell (making enough noise to let it be known they were innocent), they were handcuffed just as an inmate would be. Just as quickly, they were uncuffed so they could explore the sheriff’s office.

In addition to visiting the halls of Grand County government and law enforcement, students also traveled across the street to the Pioneer Village Museum. The museum, built in 1974 at the former Hot Sulphur Springs schoolhouse, holds lots of Grand’s history.

This Law Day also went down in the history books, as the fifth graders who participated will remember it for years to come, and a new generation will visit the county seat next year.

Students hold moot court during 2023 Law Day held at the county seat in Hot Sulphur Springs.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News
More Like This, Tap A Topic
communitygovernmentgrand countynews

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.