The CCCE hosted our sixth annual summer mock trial camp on the UNC campus from July 25 – 28, bringing together 45 students and coaches for 4 fun-filled days, culminating in trial scrimmages on Saturday morning. Most campers this year hailed from across North Carolina, with a few inquisitive Virginians also making the trip. Some schools brought enough students to form a team for our camp scrimmages, while other teams were comprised of individuals hoping to start new programs at their schools. Whether they came alone or with classmates, all of the students and teachers enjoyed meeting new friends who were passionate about mock trial.
These enthusiastic students and teachers were also excited to learn about our legal system through informative lectures and hands-on trial preparations. While some were looking to refine their skills in the Advanced sessions, Basic level campers had no prior mock trial experience. To ensure that all students arrived with some knowledge of the activity, campers were encouraged to review and analyze 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, and Opening Statements and Closing Arguments. 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.
On Wednesday through Friday, teaching sessions were interspersed with hands-on breakout groups, in which the six teams put their knowledge into practice by preparing to argue one side of a civil negligence lawsuit brought against the Utopia Zoo by an aspiring basketball player who was injured by a gorilla at the zoo. 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. New this year: Friday afternoon practice scrimmages between teams that would not face each other on Saturday morning. Students resoundingly applauded the chance to argue their case an additional time and settle those “butterflies” prior to the final trial before family and friends.
On Saturday, the students “showed their stuff” by arguing for the plaintiff or the defense in the case of Malcolm v. Utopia Zoo. 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.
Prior to heading home, everyone gathered together for our concluding awards ceremony. Mentors and behind-the-scenes volunteers were recognized for their service. 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: “This was the best camp I’ve ever attended!” One teacher-coach summed up her team’s experience: “I wanted to give you a huge thank-you for everything you did to make our experience wonderful for our first time at camp! We were able to learn so much. We are grateful to have people that…break mock trial down for us to understand so that we can share with others!”
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, Matthew Burke, Susan Johnson, Mark Kleinschmidt, Brooke Schmidly, and Nicole Winget.
Presiding Judges: Judge Keith Gregory, Judge Jefferson Griffin, Matthew Burke.
Mentors and Volunteers: Emily Barefoot, Jopsy Bayog, Emma Boggess, Emily Drake, Ben Felder, Sue Gray, Frankford Johnson, Jacob Noblett, Madux Price, Logan Spaller, and Elise Wilson.