The CCCE hosted our fifth annual summer mock trial camp on the UNC campus from July 26 – 29, bringing together more than 70 students and coaches for 4 fun-filled days, culminating in trial scrimmages on Saturday morning. While many campers lived nearby or traversed North Carolina to join us, others traveled from as far away as Indiana, South Carolina, and Virginia!
What inspired them to devote four days of their summer to an intense academic activity? Mock trial, of course! The intense boot camp atmosphere gave students a chance to learn about our legal system through informative lectures and hands-on trial preparations. While some students were looking to refine their skills in the Advanced sessions, Basic level campers had never before taken part in mock trial. This year, to ensure that all students arrived with some knowledge of the activity, campers were encouraged to review and discuss videos showcasing a one-on-one high school mock trial championship prior to the camp. Whatever their background, students and coaches all eagerly awaited the chance to increase their knowledge and demonstrate their skills on Saturday.
Experienced attorneys from across the state shared their expertise with students during targeted sessions on trial preparation. Session topics included “Mock 101” (overview and case analysis), Direct Examination, Objections and Rules of Evidence, Witnesses, Cross Examination, Opening Statements and Closing Arguments, and Presentation and Demeanor. All camp instructors have coached teams or been involved in our statewide program for a number of years, and all of them have taught at our camp before. Instructors kept the students engaged by tailoring their presentations to the students’ level and employing the Socratic method. “Jeoparody” and other games provided a fun way to test the students’ knowledge of each day’s material, with prizes (candy) providing additional motivation to excel.
Teaching sessions were interspersed with hands-on breakout groups, in which the eight teams put their knowledge into practice by preparing to argue one side of a negligent homicide case showcasing the dangers of texting while driving. Law school and college-aged “mockers” with experience at the highest levels of high school and collegiate competition mentored each team, guiding students in their preparations and giving them confidence in their new skills.
On Saturday, the students “showed their stuff” by arguing for the prosecution or the defense in the case of State of New Justice v. Terry Jackson. While notes were allowed due to the compressed time frame, many students confidently proceeded from memory alone. Objection battles were adroitly argued, and witnesses gave convincing portrayals even under withering cross examinations. After exchanging peer recognition awards, the students enjoyed a well-deserved round of applause from family and friends.
But prior to heading home, everyone gathered together for our concluding awards ceremony. Attorney Toussaint Romain exhorted the students and other audience members to use their energy and talents to make a difference in the world – to realize that their actions can impact others around them for good or ill, depending upon their choices. Toussaint’s inspirational message was a fitting conclusion to a wonderful week of learning and new challenges. Teams then came forward to pose for photos with their mentors prior to the awarding of Outstanding Witness and Outstanding Attorney awards for each camp team, as determined by the presiding judges in the scrimmages.
Preparing to leave Chapel Hill, the campers and teacher-coaches raved about the camp. As one participant proclaimed on the evaluation surveys, “The camp was 10 out of 10 amazing!! My mentor taught me a ton and I had fun!” Another student agreed: “My mentor was incredible and very knowledgeable. [My favorite instructors] had outgoing personalities and great stage presence. They held our attention throughout the presentation, and they gave helpful and useful info.” One teacher-coach summed up her team’s experience: “Communication was excellent, the pre-camp assignment was thorough, the case was simplified enough to be manageable, and the staff was knowledgeable and encouraging. Overall, it was an excellent experience.”
Because of camp, several new schools plan to join the mock trial program this fall – a wonderful benefit to students statewide who will gain important skills and a deeper appreciation for our legal system.
To view more camp photos, visit our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ncmocktrial).
A HUGE “THANK YOU” TO OUR VOLUNTEER INSTRUCTORS AND STAFF!!
Instructors: Darren Allen, Hailey Bunce, Philip Entzminger, Susan H. Johnson, Mark Kleinschmidt, Brooke Schmidly, Lisa Williams, and Nicole Winget.
Presiding Judges: Justice Robin Hudson, Judge Paul Ridgeway, Toussaint Romain, David Yasinovsky.
Mentors and Volunteers: Jopsy Bayog, Matt Burke, Ben Felder, Tyla Gomez, Sue Gray, Frankford Johnson, Madux Price, Kaitlyn Pugh, Logan Spaller, Joshua Way, Elise Wilson, and David Yasinovsky.