The Charger Blog

Chargers Explore Culture and Criminal Justice with Italian High School Students

Several students studying abroad at the University’s Tuscany campus recently visited a local high school with their professor. They interacted with Italian students and learned about the differences and similarities in the American and Italian justice systems.

March 27, 2023

By Rebekah Germain ’26, Cole Laubenheimer ’26, Dena Lakaj ’23, and Alonna Christy ’23

Cole Laubenheimer, Prof. Daniel Maxwell, Dena Lakaj, Rebekah Germain, Alonna Christy
Left to right: Cole Laubenheimer ’26, Prof. Daniel Maxwell, Dena Lakaj ’23, Rebekah Germain ’26, and Alonna Christy ’23 at visited ITIS Tullio Buzzi High School.

Several Chargers studying abroad at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy, recently visited ITIS Tullio Buzzi High School, a Prato high school focused on science and technology. The school, which generously enables Chargers to use their labs and workspaces, recently welcomed a group of University of New Haven students and their professor, Daniel Maxwell, MPA, for a lesson on criminal justice.

Prof. Maxwell brought a group of his students with him when he visited the school to teach a criminal justice lesson to the high school students. The opportunity enabled the American and Italian students to interact and learn together about their country’s respective justice systems.

During the lesson, the students compared the U.S. Bill of Rights to the rights enumerated in the Italian constitution. They also discussed search warrants and the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Prof. Maxwell ended the lesson showing the students Kahoot!, a fun and interactive game-based learning platform, asking the students questions about American and Italian culture and criminal justice. Students enjoyed competing for prizes – University of New Haven swag – and applying what they’d learned.

“It was like teams competing in the World Cup,” said Prof. Maxwell. “They had so much fun.”

Below, the four students who accompanied Prof. Maxwell reflect on the experience.

Rebekah Germain ’26

Although I had originally not planned to study abroad in Italy, as a result of studying abroad, I've had numerous exciting opportunities. One involved Professor Daniel Maxwell and a small group of students visiting a high school in Prato. ITIS Tullio Buzzi High School is a science and technology high school.

By visiting with Professor Maxwell, I was able to interact with the Italian students at this high school on a different level. It also allowed me the chance to observe foreigners' perspectives on America and assess their level of familiarity with the U.S. I believe the high school students would do well in a career in law enforcement because they were quite intelligent and knowledgeable on the subject of criminal justice.

As Professor Maxwell started his presentation, I saw the students' responses and how they interacted with him. While I listened to Professor Maxwell speak, I could tell the students were paying careful attention based on their comments and their enthusiasm for what he had to say.

Rebekah Germain and students
Rebekah Germain ’26 (center) leads a discussion with Prato high school students.

The Italian students were divided into groups of four after Professor Maxwell finished his presentation, and he asked each of us to visit a group and work on a task with the students. We had two tasks to finish. The first required us to compare and contrast the Italian and American Bills of Rights, which Professor Maxwell had given us. We exchanged thoughts and had a discussion about what the Italian students had discovered regarding similarities and differences.

For the second activity, Professor Maxwell provided us with a scenario involving the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. According to the 4th Amendment, a warrant is required for police to enter our homes and take our personal property. As soon as Professor Maxwell told us the scenario, we all got to work. These students had me mesmerized based on what they were saying. Before making a choice, they genuinely took the time to weigh all of their possibilities.

Our third activity was Kahoot!, an online game-based learning platform. These students were overjoyed when they saw what we were doing. They were ecstatic. Unfortunately, my University of New Haven classmates and I were unable to play Kahoot! because it was meant for Italian students, but it didn't stop us from cooperating as a team. It was surprising to see how accurately they answered the questions about America. Although the teams were fierce rivals, I admired the way they cooperated to find the answers to the problems. Honestly, it was fantastic.

I will always be thankful that I had the opportunity to visit this high school to meet all of these wonderful and clever students. I was able to see things differently and recognize some of the distinctions between Italy and America as a result. It was a real pleasure to work with them on these endeavors. If given the chance, I'd do this again without a doubt.

Cole Laubenheimer ’26

I recently accompanied Professor Daniel Maxwell and three other students to ITS Tullio Buzzi di Prato. Professor Maxwell had two students from his Principles of Investigations class, Dena Lakaj and Alonna Christy, and two from his Criminal Law class, Rebekah Germaine and me, visit the local high school to teach the students a little bit about criminal justice, forensics, and investigative services. As anybody who has ever had Professor Maxwell knows, he is a lot of fun.

Everyone was a little nervous about how the language barrier might impact the event, except for Professor Maxwell. He kicked it off with, “Ciao! That is the extent of the Italian I know!” and then carried on once the laughs died down.

As it turns out, the language barrier was virtually nonexistent, and the Italian students were eager to answer his questions and participate. They were excited to share what they knew about the similarities between our justice systems, tell us about Il Monstro di Firenze, and walk through mock-questioning. Professor Maxwell then told us we would break into groups and do an exercise with each other. This meant the four of us would be split into separate groups with about 15 Italian high schoolers each. Yikes.

When I went over to my group, they were quick to make space for me and introduce themselves. Each of us had a copy of a Bill of Rights. Theirs was the American one and mine was the Italian one. We were instructed to review them and identify the similarities in our rights. We learned that both countries give the right to remain silent, a speedy trial, protection against search and seizure without a warrant, and public assembly. There were two big differences: gun control and capital punishment. The Italian students were shocked at how available legal firearms are in America compared to in Italy. They had never heard of carrying permits, buying ammunition at superstores, or even considering buying one at all.

University of New Haven students interacted with students at a Prato high school.

The student on my left, Lorenzo, explained the process of buying a firearm in Italy to me. He said, “to buy a gun in Italy you must go to the local police headquarters and submit an application, then you go through psychological testing and a safety course. I think you can only really get them for sport hunting here.”

I told them the restrictions for them in American, and they were shocked. I also learned that they have never had a single active shooter drill in their lives. What really amazed me was how easy it was to get into their school compared to my high school in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

We moved on to talking about the death penalty which was most recently used in 1944 on three Sicilian men for robbery, murder, and battery of 10 people. In 2007, Article 27 of the Italian Constitution completely banned capital punishment. This exercise really taught us a lot about each other’s countries and allowed us to gain more perspectives on how our laws and rights influence our cultures.

Professor Maxwell had us go through the warrant-request process for a hypothetical crime. The students were able to write a warrant request that included all of the crucial information they needed to be able to go into an apartment to search for stolen cellphones. They knew to be specific on the addresses, include the serial numbers of the phones that were stolen from store inventories, include where they wanted to look, and even proposed a stake out.

We then moved onto Professor Maxwell’s newfound favorite toy: Kahoot!

To say my group was competitive would be an understatement. The Kahoot! had questions about what Professor Maxwell taught them about criminal justice, the American Bill of Rights, important statistics, the Italian Bill of Rights, and Italian history. At one point, my group had Lorenzo, Giada, Davide, and Giulia all on the leaderboard (I am still very proud of that).

All in all, this was one of the highlights of my study abroad experience, so far. I really enjoyed being able to teach the students about criminal justice. Several students in my group said they had prior interest in this field and that this experience encouraged them to learn more about it. We all learned so much and had fun while doing it, so it didn’t even feel like we were doing schoolwork. We went over our allotted time, and it felt like we were only there for 20 minutes. This was an experience I am happy I was a part of.

Dena Lakaj ’23
Dena Lakaj
Dena Lakaj ’23 (center, left) interacts with students in Prato.

Professor Maxwell, Alonna Christy, Cole Laubenheimer, Rebekah Germain, and I recently visited an Italian high school. During this trip, Professor Maxwell taught criminal investigation. Alonna, Cole, Becky, and I introduced ourselves to the class, talking about our majors and what they entail.

We broke off into four groups where each one of us had our own group to discuss a scenario. The exercise was to come up with what course of action that would take place in the event that cell phones were stolen from inventory and sold.

My group, specifically, discussed tracking the phones themselves. We would plant some sort of GPS device in the phone, so that when it was turned on, we would get a location. This would allow us to gather leads as to where the cellphones were being sold and the person who was selling them. That person is more likely than not to be our thief.

The Italian students (who have become my friends) were very creative in the ways they would handle this situation to get probable cause and a search warrant. The language barrier made it a bit tricky to understand at times, but it was interesting, nonetheless. I learned a lot about how different American students are compared to Italian students. We were told that these students are used to more lecture-type teaching, so it was even more fascinating to see how receptive they were.

The Italian students were especially excited about the Kahoot! that Professor Maxwell made for them. It was almost as if they were watching the Super Bowl, as Professor Maxwell put it. The most fascinating part about that game was that they seemed to know more about the United States rather than their own country. It just shows how America is seen in their eyes, and how it sort of affects them, despite being so far from us. Their English was almost perfect, while my Italian is nowhere near as good as their English.

These students were an amazing group of kids, and I would love to work with/teach them again.

Alonna Christy ’23

I greatly enjoyed helping Professor Maxwell teach some of the students at ITIS Tullio Buzzi High School. It was fun interacting with the students and talking about the similarities and differences between the American criminal justice system and the Italian criminal justice system. It was not only a learning opportunity for the students, but for me as well. I would happily attend another class in the future.

Rebekah Germain ’26 and Cole Laubenheimer ’26 are psychology majors at the University of New Haven. Dena Lakaj ’23 and Alonna Christy ’23 are criminal justice majors. They are all studying abroad this semester at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy.