Mock Trial now in session at Kennedy High
on October 21, 2011
As Jayla Rush sits reading quietly over the court case brief for the murder trial of People v. Buschelin, she is being coached by Maggie Pettigrew, a University of Southern California (USC) Hastings 3rd year student.
“It’s important to pay attention to the small details, because they can help you build your case,” Pettigrew said.
For the last three weeks, every Monday at 3:30 p.m., a small group of students walk into classroom 125 at Kennedy High School for a chance to be a part of the Mock Trial program. As a freshman, Jayla Rush, 14, has been working hard with Pettigrew to prepare her version of the criminal case, both from the prosecution and defense perspective.
“I have some cousins in the foster care system right now that have been going through a lot,” said Rush. “That motivates me to want to go to Harvard Law School and become a family law lawyer so I can do something about it.”
The Mock Trial program is part of an initiative to create a more collegiate culture in the district’s high schools and help students acquire a working knowledge of the judicial system.
“Learning to hone public speaking skills, thinking on your feet, and building community among students are just some of the benefits of the program,” said Ina Bendich, former director of the Law Academy at EXCEL High School in West Oakland. “It helps support academic development, self-esteem. It’s about getting kids to see the bigger picture and realize that trials are not black and white; there are grey areas.”
Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys also provide assistance as judges for the Annual Contra Costa County High School.
The Mock Trial Program is held in early evenings throughout the months of February and early March at the Contra Costa Court in Martinez.
While the program is new and still struggling to garner more enthusiasm and rigor, Ramsey sees Mock Trial as a solution to motivate kids post-high school.
“We’re still in the preliminary stages of setting up Mock trial programs here in Richmond,” said Board of Education President and former lawyer Charles Ramsey. “It will take a few years to catch on.”
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