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Teens get peek inside courts and law

Session’s highlight shows results of drug overdose


By Teri Figueroa | 4:47 p.m. March 8, 2013


— Aaron Rubin can’t speak. Yet his story captivated an audience of about 500 North County high school students Friday.

The teens were at the Vista Courthouse to take part in the 12th annual Youth in Court day, an award-winning program designed to demystify the judicial system for students.

In 2005, Rubin, who attended Poway High School, overdosed on OxyContin, a narcotic painkiller.

Rubin, then 23, suffered a heart attack and two strokes. He spent three weeks in a coma. His family started planning his funeral.

Then he opened his eyes.

Rubin, now 30, a one-time football player, uses a wheelchair now. He can’t dress or feed himself.



He communicates primarily by using his fingers: one for yes, two for no.

His mother, Sherrie Rubin, 54, cares for him now at the family’s Escondido home.

With her son at her side, she shared his story with the students.

At one point, she asked the crowd whether anyone knew people who abuse prescription drugs. A few dozen hands went up.

Afterward, Rancho Buena Vista High School senior Ricky Olivares, 18, said he saw himself — and, more so, what could be — in Aaron Rubin.

“It really caught my attention,” said the teen, who said he has a history of drug abuse.

Organizers of the annual Youth in Court event invited the mother and son to share their story with the teens for just that purpose.

“It makes them think. And if it keeps just one out of a wheelchair, then we have done our job,” said Vista Superior Court Judge Richard Cline, who founded the event as educational outreach.

In 2005, the American Bar Association hailed the local Youth In Court program as one of the best outreach programs in the country.

Of the 1,000 children in attendance from 29 schools Friday, about half were elementary and middle-school kids who took part in mock trials.

The heavier activities were for the high school students, who were presented with a host of legal topics.

Some saw a mock trial involving a high school senior suing a university for revoking his early admission after spotting his online postings about a classmate’s sexual orientation.

Others heard real tales from drug court or a session about just what sort of data investigators can obtain from a criminal’s cellphone.

But the spotlight of the day was on Rubin, whose story inspired his mother to start the HOPE Foundation, which can be found at

In 2011, 80 people died of heroin overdoses in San Diego County, up from 57 in 2007.

According to the county’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, experts theorize that the increase may be from people who moved to heroin when OxyContin became too pricey.

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