Editor's Note: This story is part of a series focusing on Shawnee High School students who are preparing for future careers through internships as part of Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP).
During her fall semester of her senior year, Shawnee High School student Marleigh Merrell spent a portion of her days observing and learning from Pottawatomie County Associate District Judge Tracy McDaniel as part of her Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP) .
According to the 18-year-old, she would go to the Pottawatomie County courthouse everyday and watch different court proceedings from about 1:15 to 3 p.m.
While Merrell benefitted from this internship, she was only able to observe what was happening each day, McDaniel explained.
"There's not a lot for someone non-lawyer to do here. So mainly it's a lot of observation and talking about what we do,” the judge said.
Despite this however, Merrell said she learned quite a bit from her observations and is appreciative of the opportunity.
"So Judge McDaniel does family court. So I (saw) her do divorces...every Wednesday she has juvenile court," Merrell said. "So I've seen adoptions and delinquents and deprived cases."
In addition to observing McDaniel, Merrell said she was able to sit in on other judge's cases including criminal court, jury selection and the first death penalty case in Shawnee since the 1980s.
"I (enjoyed) watching court everyday and just learning more and more and I (liked) especially interning for Judge McDaniel because I see her make rulings and stuff as a judge, but then I can also see the attorneys in action," Merrell said.
The 18-year-old said she chose this internship because she wants to practice law when she grows up and because of her internship she's thought even more about her future as a lawyer.
"I got interested in law in my sophomore year and so I decided I wanted to be an attorney and...I've always said I (wanted) to practice criminal law, but I have been thinking about family law a little bit," Merrell said.
The intern explained her passion for law was influenced by her aunt and her wanting to assist those who may not be able to speak their truth.
"I've just always liked helping people, so I've always wanted to be an attorney to help others have a voice," Merrell said.
Merrell said her internship has been extremely beneficial because at a young age she's seen the inner workings of law and she can take what she's learned with her as she attends law school.
"It (helped) me gain experience and see more of an inside on it as I go into college instead of going into college without knowing anything," Merrell said.
According to McDaniel, Merrell's internship is giving her a huge advantage as a future law student because she's gaining knowledge and learning what truly makes a good attorney.
"Some of what I hope she will remember when she gets to law school...is by getting to see things behind the scenes she's also going to see this is a lawyer who is always prepared...or there's other lawyers you can tell are winging it," McDaniel said.
The judge also said from her internship, Merrell was able to see different types of the law including criminal, juvenile, mental health and other areas.
"So getting ideas of some paths to take during undergraduate school before law school is good," McDaniel said.
The judge also said Merrell's internship will set her apart from other applicants when she applies for law school since it's competitive.
In addition to her internship, Merrell said she is in the National Honor Society and she worked on various community projects.
After she graduates Merrell said she will attend The University of Oklahoma and major in Political Science and Pre-Law.