This week I watched our students argue in court over 100 million dollars worth of stolen artwork and a museum’s allegedly fraudulent insurance claim.
The judge was a real Texas judge. The courtroom was a real (Zoom) courtroom. But it wasn’t a real trial. In fact, it was a Mock Trial, and the students in question were the inaugural Waterloo Mock Trial team.
Mock Trial is a competition that incorporates speaking, debate, acting, analytical reading, and a healthy dose of teamwork. Students are given the materials of a fake legal case and build a plaintiff and defense team to compete against other schools. Attorneys write arguments to direct- and cross-examine witnesses; witnesses have to “truthfully” portray characters based on given stories without being incriminated. And true to TV-courtroom-drama style, objections abound…except ours are based on the real Federal Rules of Evidence.
As you can imagine, such a competition requires months of preparation and a wide range of skills. The team must analyze a dense case packet to find holes in the arguments, write and deliver speeches and examinations, believably become the witnesses, and demonstrate poise and confidence while following courtroom procedures. When another team throws a curveball, students must think on their feet to adapt without missing a beat. Attorneys must be in perfect sync with their witnesses and co-counsel during trial. This competition requires a truly challenging level of preparation, intellectual skill, and social maturity from a high school team.
Our students rose to that challenge in a big way at their Regional Competition this week. After a grueling 12-hour day of trials, Waterloo Mock Trial placed 3rd in the Central Texas Region! This was a major accomplishment for a brand new team. Additionally, our very own Jenna Nattinger was awarded Best Advocate — only one of these awards is given to the best competing attorney in the entire region! Congratulations Jenna! And congratulations to the whole team: Asher Proeger, Houston Reilly, Jenna Nattinger, Lia Segrest, Lincoln Ponder, Trevor Hadd, Jackson Trotter, Bennett Wood, Lila Peeler, Sumner Veal, Sahani Perera, and Team Captain Naomi Rees.
We’re proud of them not only for these awards, but because of the tremendous growth every team member has demonstrated. Each of them showed true student ownership and a strong team bond, working through an iterative process of creation and re-creation, to finally stand in front of real trial judges and attorneys to prove what they can do. What could be more Waterloo than that?