Union Academy starts successful mock trial team

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 06:17 PM

There was order in the court for the Union Academy Middle School Mock Trial Team, who won and earned special recognitions at their first mock trial competition. 

The team started in September and is coached by Rebeka Smith, a seventh grade English teacher. The team met once a week from September until their competition in December. 

When the team signed up for the competition, they were given a case and a rule book. The students received witness affidavits and a rough outline. From there, they had to come up with questions for the witness, cross-examination questions, opening statements, closing statements and every other aspect of the case they were trying. 

"They were very nervous, especially because a lot of the material was slightly above their reading level, so it was hard for them to learn all the verbiage," Smith said. "They were also nervous that they'd be able to get in front of people and be able to talk...there's also so much memorization that needs to take place." 

There were two regional competitions. Union Academy competed in Troy. They won their location and took four out of four possible awards, for most effective attorney and most effective witness. Their regional score was not high enough for the team to advance to the state level. 

"I was extremely surprised by that," Smith said. "They did a remarkable job. They were very well-prepared and poised." 

The students made eye contact, had good posture and were confident, Smith said. Her only critique was their volume, she added. 

Union Academy brought two teams to the competition and they went against different schools from the region. In total, 18 students participated in the competition.

Smith is hoping to grow the program in the future. 

"I'm working now with the high school," she said. "Their competition is in February and it's a regional competition." 

Students from the middle school team will be coming to one of the high school practices to critique the team.

"They want to come and help support and challenge the high schoolers," Smith said. 

Smith moved to Union Academy from New York City and wanted to start a team at her old school, but New York did not have a mock trial program on the middle school level. Smith did mock trial when she was in high school and they went to state competitions.

"I'm a fan," she said.