PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: I CARE AND YOU COUNT, BY LAURA BARTELS

Congratulations to the La Reina Mock Trial team for their win at the Ventura County Mock Trial Competition. The team worked very hard and did a fabulous job. Thanks to Newbury Park High School, who fielded an amazing four teams this year and received recognition for their inclusion of as many kids as possible into their program. Congratulations to firstyear team St. Augustine – it’s wonderful to have new teams and I look forward to seeing the Crusaders again next year.

When I watch the kids lose a match or a game or a bee or a trial, I am reminded of His Holiness the Dalai Lama saying that it’s more fun to be on the losing team so that you can see the smiles and the joy of the winners. That concept is hard to explain to the eleven-year-old on the soccer field. But in being with the teams of mock trial kids after the competition, I saw a joy in the kids who did not advance. It is the joy of accomplishment. It is the joy
of competence. It is the joy of success. It is the joy of a task well done. It is a joy of completion and of closure. It is also a joy of community. It was this tangible joy permeating through the van of Fillmore High school kids as we went home after the preliminary nights of competition. The kids knew they were not in the top eight, but in their eyes, they had held their own, had stood proud and tall and finished. The pride and joy of accomplishment and
participation was palpable at the high school the next day and carried through the weeks.

Mock trial open doors for kids

Attorney Joe O’Neill, who has been coaching Pacifica for years, shared how rewarding it is to see how mock trial builds leaders and confidence, and it’s worth it to see how a young student grows to be a talented public speaker. Once parents see their child participate in mock trial, he or she will forever be the spokesperson for the family at all family events. One of O’Neill’s mock trial students just received a full scholarship to Stanford.

Mock trial teaches the kids that when you stumble, you pick yourself up. One of Fillmore’s mock trial attorneys stumbled a bit on her closing argument. She lost her place and stopped to an interminable roaring, awkward, and embarrassed silence. But she could feel the support in the room and she knew that even though it was uncomfortable to be so vulnerable, she was safe and she was poised and it was ok for her to take her time to gather her thoughts and muster through. It was a powerful lesson and one that will carry her well through life. It would have been easier for her to stop talking and sit down, but she stood up there with all eyes on her willing her to proceed and she got through it. Judge Vincent O’Neill’s quiet respect for her and her team, gracefully and with care, allowed the silence, allowed her to gather her thoughts, allowed her with grace to shakily proceed and then confidently finish with a sense of completion and accomplishment.

Mock trial generates higher AP scores

The team’s expert doctor was an enthusiastic sophomore who landed in Fillmore from Vietnam five years ago without knowing one word of English. His teacher coach associated with the biology teacher to have the “expert
doctors” study real hearts so the kids could really understand the effects of amphetamines on the heart. Fillmore’s “experts,” with such a complete understanding of hypertropic cardiomyopathy, were able to excel at their understanding of their roles. Practice after practice, their other teammates also garnered an understanding of the heart so extensive that their AP Biology teachers are confident their AP biology scores will be stellar. Our
expert could tell that his “testimony” was understood and appreciated. He could barely contain his excitement on the way home.

Mock trial provides unimaginable futures to the kids

One of our students was told by scorer attorney Barbara Macri-Ortiz that she should be an attorney when she grew up. The neighboring scorer commented that he would not be at all surprised to see her as the CEO of a major company in her future. The next day, Barbara Macri- Ortiz emailed that she was chiding herself on the ride home for telling the high school sophomore that she should be an attorney; Macri-Ortiz should have told the
student that she should reach higher than attorney and aspire to become a judge. This young woman’s life was forever changed when she was told by a Ventura County attorney that she can grow up to be a judge. You talk about people changing kids’ lives – it happened at mock trial to the children of teachers and farmworkers and ranch hands, kids who had no idea where their future could really lead. There’s nothing more powerful than a complete stranger coming up to you and saying “I care and you count.”

Laura Bartels of Taylor, Scoles & Bartels in Fillmore was a mock trial coach for the Fillmore High School Mock trial team along with attorney Cynthia Pandolfi.

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