Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School's University Scholars Program (PALCS USP) competed against 15 teams from 10 other Chester County high schools, and won this year's Chester County Mock Trial Competition on February 25, 2013. Past state champions of the Pennsylvania Mock Trial Competition include Henderson High School and Devon Preparatory, both of whom lost to PALCS USP in this year’s Chester County competition.
The PALCS USP team overtook West Chester East High School in the District Level competition, then West Chester Henderson High School in a semi-final round, and finally defeated Devon Preparatory School in the final round. With this win the team will now go on to compete in the Regional Play-offs on March 5, the next step on the way to the State competition in Harrisburg in late March. The national competition will take place in May in Indianapolis.
The PALCS USP team consists of the following PALCS students participating in the University Scholars Program: Louisa Ahlqvist, Alexandre Boyer, Thomas Farinha, Grace Kier, Sarah Koros, Matthew LoPolito, Sarah Moldoff, Steven O'Hanlon, Gabby Plotts, Kiann Plotts, Kevin Schwenk, Haleigh Swansen, and Caleb Thompson. Students Ralph Lawton and Matthew LoPolito served as alternates and trained alongside the team. The team is coached by Attorney-Advisor Lori Kier, a PALCS parent, herself an attorney, along with PALCS teachers Christopher Stiles, Nona Niedert, and Matthew Smith, all who volunteered their time to work with the team. Another attorney, Deborah Krabbendam, also worked with the group.
“I know that when I tell people about how exciting Mock Trial is to participate in and to watch, my friends tend to roll their eyes at me,” said 12th grader Haleigh Swensen. “Once they come out and see the process, though – the speed and intensity of the arguments and how many quick decisions the contestants are making—they are blown away. If anyone doubts in a high schooler’s ability to analyze, think on his feet, or argue legal facts with maturity, that person needs to come watch a mock trial competition. “
The coaching staff and parents of the students note the impressive commitment and devotion of the students. "The students have prepared all year for the playoffs. They have stayed after school, attended scrimmages on Friday afternoons, tournaments on Saturdays and Sundays, and finally the district competition and playoffs,” noted Coach Christopher Stiles. “I have seen them grow so much through this process. It has been an honor to serve as their coach."
Coach Stiles credits attorney advisor Lori Kier as being critical to the success of the team. He elaborates, “She allows the students to discover the law naturally as they work through the case, providing guidance when needed, but letting the students lead the investigation."
The PALCS USP team agrees that one key to their success has been the support of the whole PA Leadership Charter School school community. Teachers who weren't coaching voluntarily helped with logistics, parents brought food and ferried students to scrimmages and tournaments, and the students did whatever they could to help each other improve through practice and preparation. Coach Nona Niedert, a middle school English teacher and Drama Club director, used her talent for drama to help the students grow into more confident and persuasive speakers.
In Pennsylvania, there are approximately 300 teams that compete in Mock Trial, an activity that gives high school students the opportunity to act as lawyers and witnesses in simulated civil and criminal trials before actual judges and panels of juries.
Delaware County Courthouse served as the venue for the Regional Mock Trial Competition on Tuesday, March 5. As the winner of Chester County district, the PALCS-USP team squared off against the winner of Delaware County, the Episcopal Academy. The USP Mock Trial team lost in a tough battle against EA. The students performed well and learned numerous lessons through the experience. The team is looking forward to next year and the opportunity to compete again.
This release was submitted by Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School's University Scholars Program.