Upper St. Clair School District

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April 13, 2016
 
Mock Trial team competes in state finals

Mock Trial Team A team of 12 Upper St. Clair High School students became the school’s first Mock Trial team to win the regional championship and advance to the statewide competition. The 33rd Annual Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition was held April 1-2, 2016, in Harrisburg.

The team, coached by Gifted Education Coordinator Pat Palazzolo, is comprised of seniors Erin Graham and Team Captain Katherine Starr, juniors Amna Amin, Tyler Clark, Raahema Durrani, Macey Kaplan, Arushi Kewalramani, Yash Lahoti, Natalie Urban, and Vicki Wang, and sophomores Wyatt Keating and Abbie Wagner. In addition, Samuel Hornak, an Upper St. Clair High School alumnus, served as the team’s mentor lawyer.

This year, 315 teams from 271 high schools competed in district and regional levels of Pennsylvania's mock trial competition in hopes of gaining one of 14 spots at the statewide event. Pennsylvania’s competition is one of the largest in the nation.

Sponsored by the PBA Young Lawyers Division, Mock Trial provides a hands-on opportunity to learn about the American legal system. Taking on the roles of lawyers and witnesses, students develop direct and cross-examinations, prepare opening and closing arguments, learn to object to opposing counsel, and practice the formalities of the courtroom. This year's hypothetical case centered on a civil action to determine whether an insurance company must be forced to cover the costs of a heinous injury to an individual that occurred on a nature preserve.

“Beginning in mid-December, our Upper St. Clair team spent many hours preparing the case, including Sunday and Wednesday evening practices and Monday after-school sessions,” Ms. Palazzolo, said. “The students worked hard to refine their skills.”

Twelfth grader Katherine Starr has the unique perspective of moving from learning the basics through the Fort Couch Challenge Program, to serving as the team’s timekeeper as a high school freshman, to taking on the role of a lawyer as a sophomore, to becoming a co-captain of last year’s team, to finishing her high school Mock Trial career as team captain.

“Mock Trial teaches a variety of skills that are applicable to all aspects of life,” Katherine said. She added that she loves seeing her peers combine individual talents to make the strongest possible team.

Although the team from Quigley Catholic High School went on to win the state championship for an unprecedented ninth time and will represent Pennsylvania at the national competition in May, the Upper St. Clair team learned and achieved a great deal.

“These students are to be applauded for demonstrating the critical-thinking and effective communication skills that are needed to rise to the state level of competition,” Justin A. Bayer, chair of the PBA Young Lawyers Division, said.

For more information about the PBA Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, visit the PBA website at www.pabar.org.
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