Attorneys from Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP assisted in a Thompson Diversion Program volunteer training night held at BHSU in January. The law firm also donated a $500 scholarship for students involved in the program.
The Rapid City law firm Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP assisted with training for volunteers involved with the Thompson Diversion Program at Black Hills State University. The law firm also donated $500 for the scholarships for students involved in the University’s Thompson Diversion Program.
The Thompson Diversion program is a restorative justice program that provides BHSU students with the opportunity to learn from a poor decision. Instead of a poor decision affecting their permanent adult record, which can result in negative consequences such as loss of job opportunities or ineligibility for financial aid, this program ensures that students take responsibility for their actions. Through cooperation with their peers, students correct their mistakes by giving back to BHSU and the Spearfish community and completing activities that ensure education and accountability.
“It allows students to learn from their mistakes, repair any harm done to themselves, others, and the community, and have a second chance with a clean criminal record,” said Hannah Neumiller, student director of the Thompson Diversion Program at BHSU.
Neumiller is a chemistry major with business and political science minors going into her senior year at BHSU. She has been involved with the program since her first semester on campus in 2017 mainly serving as an attorney and a director.
“There were about 15 volunteers who attended the training,” Neumiller said, “I helped plan and set up the training’s agenda for the evening.”
Attorneys Richard M. Williams and Christopher A. Christianson assisted with the training night for the student volunteers. The training consisted of a discussion of the mission of the Diversion Program, how to best prepare questions as the defense, prosecution, and jury, and working on a couple of mock cases to practice what they learned.
“The students were extremely engaged with the program,” said Williams. “They were willing to impose punishment, but at the same time they took into consideration mitigating factors. It is this sort of balancing that judges apply during regular court sentencing proceedings and I believe the students applied it equally well to the Diversionary Program.”
Christianson said that he also enjoyed spending time with the students and staff involved in the program during the training. “The students took their roles as advocates and jurors seriously and were eager to learn about the legal system.”
Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP donated $500 as a scholarship which they hope can help a student who is involved in a leadership role with the Thompson Diversion program. The law firm said that they believe this program provides a great opportunity for students to practice the law with their fellow peers and an excellent way for their attorneys to be able to give back to the Spearfish community.
About Brittany Thompson and the Thompson Diversion Program at BHSU
Since its creation, numerous BHSU students have completed the Thompson Diversion Program and as a result have been able to continue achieving their academic goals. The Thompson Diversion Program was created by and later named in honor of Brittany Thompson, a BHSU student who passed away in 2017 at the age of 22 after a courageous and unwavering fight against cancer. In 2014 as a student senator representing the College of Liberal Arts, Brittany first introduced her idea for the Diversion Program at BHSU. Brittany was involved as a volunteer with teen court in high school. She knew a similar program at the college level could greatly impact students whose first legal infraction would impact their ability to achieve their educational goals.