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The Many Faces of Mock Trial

By Samirah Sarwat, White Rock, Lakeview Centennial HS


Mock trial is a battle. It isn’t a traditional battle of fists or weapons. Those that prefer mock trial participate in a battle of wits, intellect, intimidation, and control. Witnesses protect themselves under the attorney’s fire. Attorneys must stand strong against the blows from the other team, being able to bounce back quickly from harsh attacks. While judges oversee the process, making sure that everything is fair and proper throughout the rounds. It’s a very complex game to play, you’d think that only the greatest, most confident people would willingly participate in such a scary sounding activity. However, the answer to that question is a lot more diverse than one would assume at first glance.

        It may seem a bit vain, but I feel as though I should begin with my own story in mock trial. Now you may be thinking… Sam, you’re in the Media section, what possibly could you have done with mock trial? Well, that’s where I started my experience in Youth and Government. I began because a friend of mine had convinced me to join in order to improve my public speaking skills, I didn’t expect much from my experience other than anxiety. But admittedly, I was wrong, or else I wouldn’t be here for my third year. As a witness for my first two years I gained a lot of public speaking skills, and the motivation to just do my best, but not push so hard I burn out. I’m still unsure about my future career, but regardless, YaG has really assisted me in my social skills, as well as my skills in independence.

        At the beginning of the day, I was a bit nervous. I didn’t feel bad about it since most people are before competition! But frankly, this time was different. I didn’t have much to do other than to just start talking. So, I approached this judge on his bi-round. His name is Moses, he’s been in Youth and Government for 4 years, all of them being in judicial. He started off as a witness, played an attorney for 2 years, and now, he’s a judge. When I asked him about how he found the club, he said that it was by accident. One day, he was simply wandering his school hallways for the French club, but instead of French, he stumbled into the Youth and Government meeting at his school. He ended up staying to try it out and loved it, as we usually do. He states he loves “the art of debate and politics” which is why he likes this program so much. He says that after he graduates he wants to “wing it” but politics is a likely career choice because of the program’s influence.

        Mostly judges were on their bi-round during the first rounds of trials. This is Becka Steinnan, this is her 4th year and she is, as I mentioned before, a judge! She joined Youth and Government due to her community’s influence, she decided to try it out. She said that it “helped her feel more comfortable speaking and voicing her opinions.” Despite not planning on going into the law-type careers rather, med school, she still says Youth and Government’s influence stays with her. She says it’s very useful in the sense of dealing with interviews and public speaking in general.

        Many of you may know his face thanks to the opening ceremony yesterday, but in case you don’t, this is Skyler Stanridge! He’s currently a judge and candidate for Attorney General, and his 5 years of experience in Youth and Government certainly make him very qualified. Not to mention his unimaginable charm! He sat and talked to my trial team and I, which is how I was actually able to get an interview with him. He seemed super busy. He joined Youth and Government through an informational meeting at his school, and stuck with it ever since! He’s been in nearly every branch of the program but loves judicial and mock trial specifically for their creativity. From the way that the attorneys present the case, to the fact that none of the cases are the same, he loves it all. He feels as though this program has greatly impacted his life for the better. Because of it, he wants to be a federal court judge and says that this program gave him great experience for that career. After all, as he says himself, “you can’t buy experience.”

Now I found attorney Sruti Ramachandran while I was looking for Skyler Stanridge. He was judging for a round that she was in, and her intensity and fire drew me in. So, I did what any reporter would do… I interviewed her! This is only her 2nd year in the program, but her passion is very clear through the way she presents herself in the courtroom. She says that mock trial was a class at her school, and it was suggested to her by her counselor since she had an open slot in her schedule. Her favorite part of the job is to argue, she says it’s a lot of fun, and since she wants to go into law in the future, this program will obviously help her a lot.

        I know that interviewing friends isn’t exactly the toughest thing in the world but sometimes they have some really good insight. This is Juliette Walters, attorney for 4 years and professional nuisance. Not only to me, though, but to the witnesses she crosses as well. She’s been in Youth and Government for 4 years, all in the judicial section. Hopping from appellate to witness, then witness to attorney. This year, she had planned to be a judge, but due to some complications on the team, she once again took up the role of attorney. She joined initially because she wanted to be a lawyer, and expected to get some good experience from it, and she was right! That’s exactly what she received from this experience. She says it’s the “best program for this sort of experience,” and the “best one she could have joined.”

This is Kendal-Leigh Williams. Frankly, I don’t know much about her, but I’d like to know a lot more. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to in this interview, but I tried my best. She’s been in Youth and Government for 3 years, and is now playing a witness on the mock trial team. She originally joined the club because she wanted to be able to get experience to get through law school. She’s planning on doing child psychiatry, but the effects of Youth and Government will absolutely help her in the future. According to her, she was “able to grow social skills and learn to talk to people in professional settings.”

Lastly, but certainly not least, we have Sebastian Solitaire. He was the brave volunteer who stepped up to face my interview after I asked his trial team if I could conduct one. This is his 1st year in Youth and Government. So honestly, the fact that he could even talk to me is a great thing all by itself. He plays two roles, one of the prosecution attorney, and two, a defense witness. He initially joined to improve his public speaking, but enjoys the way that YaG is set up, along with the role that he was assigned to play. He says he’s going into computer science, which may not be a related field, but says that the leadership skills he’s learning will definitely help him a lot in his future career.

People get intimidated at the thought and the idea of a mock trial. It’s stressful, it’s hard work, and everyone there wants to be a lawyer. After all, they’re so intense, why join at all? Well, here’s why. All these different people with different stories. Whether they joined by accident, or because they were actively searching for a way to better themselves when it came to knowledge of the law, everyone here is different. Not one person here has had the exact same experience as another. But one thing they have in common is that they don’t regret it. Because at the end of the day, it’s a good experience. Looking back, it’s always fun. Honestly, that’s all I can hope for when it comes to the current delegates, as well as the future delegates. It may not seem easy now, you may feel scared, nervous, maybe even like you want to quit. But you will get through that opening statement, you will portray your witness well enough, you will get those good scores. But most importantly, you will enjoy this experience. Just like all of the people you’ve seen in this photo essay, you will enjoy the experiences you go through here. I promise.

2020-02-01T10:20:02-06:00February 1st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Senate at the Capitol

By Alison Torres

Today I will be covering the Senate and bill FS055 titled “An act providing tax incentives for producers of genetically modified produce and declaring an emergency.” This bill was made by delegate Eli Scott from the Imagine International Academy of North Texas.

Both delegates Jose Moreno and Lt. Gov Alex Searles are preparing for debate to begin. Searles reads the title of the bill and calls the bill author up for opening remarks.

Delegate Scott starts his opening statement by bringing up points and benefits of his bill. “Furthermore, GMOs help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” This is just one of the many benefits brought up about his bill

“SIR CHAIR,” the delegates yell as the questioning period begins. Delegate Micheal Pugh gets chosen and asks the bill author exactly who this bill will apply to, he asks to clarify if it’ll be for small farmers for big corporations.

 

Following Pugh, Delegate Kelly and Speed question the bill author.

Moving to the amendment period, Delegate Taylor is the first to speak. “Change line 25 from, $160,000 fine, to fine equivalent to initial deserved incentive.” Taylor’s main argument was that if the original incentive was smaller or bigger than the fine it would not be enough to equal what they lost.

The pro/con debate has begun and Delegate Jose Moreno is the first to speak. He begins his speech with, “the production and distribution of GMOs have saved millions of lives over the years, manufacturers were able to produce rice and bean quantities that have never been foreseen without genetic alter.” The main points in the speech are that GMOs help produce lots of food for the fast-growing population.

The next opponent speaker is Delegate, Sam Mills. He agrees that GMOs make food more accessible and affordable but says that the bill is misguided, he worries that small farms will be at a disadvantage and encourages changes that should be made in order to get his vote. After many other proponent and opponent speakers, the bill makes it to voting and is passed into law.

2020-02-01T10:16:23-06:00February 1st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Full House: Scenes & Scenarios

By Jacieon Williams

The beauty of the State Capitol is unmatched. The limitless carvings and outstanding colors give its audience an experience to remember.

Delegate Alexis Brown takes a stroll up the Capitol stairs, as she basks in her final State Conference.

Delegates gather as they enter a new chapter of their lives through the 2020 House Conference.

“We will now be moving on to the Opponent and Proponent debate period.” Delegates and Chairs gather to discuss the terms of criminalizing false accusations.

“ The $20 it costs to buy a Juul or any type of cigarette, can seriously damage one’s thoughts, and in extreme cases….take their voice.”

Delegate Macie Hall calls for a point of inquiry to clarify the truth behind the current circumstances of public safety.

Throughout the Conference debate, time was spent in the State Capitol Library.

Furthermore, this is a place of wonder, filled with centuries of Texas laws and Daily floor reports.

In order to learn the history of these laws, delegates are able to gain knowledge from these books, which will aid in further debates.

In conclusion, Youth and Government consists of more than just debate. It contains Reading, Studying, Practicing, and many more aspects of hard work. The halls of knowledge are endless.

2020-02-01T10:12:10-06:00February 1st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Appellate Court

By Elijah Meritt

On the Appellee side, co-council Katherine Bi debunks the claims made by the opposing counsel that the lack of evidence, more specifically the traffic tickets, provided resulted in the jury being misinformed and misled. She says, “there is no definite way to prove that knowing of traffic tickets would have swayed the jury’s decision.”

In the case of The State of Texas V. Tourrence Rush, co-council on the Appellant side gives her insight on the flaws of the decision made by the court. “There was, in fact, a clear error made in the jury’s decision.” As most Appellants do, the goal was to reverse the decision made by a lower court, in this case, a decision that pitted Tourrence Rush guilty of driving under the influence.

“Because the State did not give the information about Spokes’ previous traffic violations to the defense, they (the state) deprived them of the opportunity to assess how likely Spokes was to fight traffic laws,”Says co-council Collins. This statement supports the assertion that the jury “deserves the right to know about Spokes’ traffic tickets” as they would have played a factor in their decision on the verdict. The Appellant side made it a point in their main argument that without the defense having absolutely all the facts from the investigation of the original case, that there wasn’t a fair trial, and furthered that idea by providing the judges with specific examples that qualify that argument.

Campbell Collins, as the other co-council of the Appellant side, gives further reasoning as to why the verdict in Tourrence Rush’s case is questionable. As she touches on the flaws from members of the jury and their decision, the judge listens in closely as the lack of a jury puts all responsibility of a verdict solely on her.

Another theme in the case was jury bias. Jury bias is a common problem in Appeals Court, where the Appellant side often feels that the reason of the ruling may have to do with some characteristics of the members of the jury, that could range from gender to ethnicity. To wrap up the first round of competition, co-counsel Bi states, “In conclusion, there is no reason to believe that the jury was selected based on race…..correlation is not causation.” Bi is aware that the opposing counsel believes firmly in this issue, yet she radiates confidence in disagreeing and taking her stance.

When asked what he wants to gain from the Youth and Government experience, first year Media Delegate Marcus Johnson says, “I really would like to gain a better understanding of how to write articles…..media outlets in the world, the newsplace, and modern politics is not really covered that much, and I feel like Youth and Government will give me insight as to how media affects people’s perceptions of politics in real life.”

When asked what type of racial discrimination has been made against the jury, co-counsel of the Appellee side, Isis Garcia, explains how under Miller [Mississippi v. Flower] it states that “If two jurors have the same occupation that they both should be stricken, if one isn’t it does give rise to purposeful discrimination.” She further explains,  “Both juror number three and number seven were school teachers, however juror number three was stricken because she was an African American female, and juror number seven was a white male,” which goes to show that in the eyes of the Appelle side, there has been definite discrimination.

Being involved in a majority of the sections in YG, advancing in judicial multiple times, and having held office on separate occasions, Delegate Sebastiane Caballes (right) says, “The thing that excites me the most is that my peers, at a young age already engaged, are just so enthusiastic about being civilly minded people whether that’s through the law, legislation, or being a part of the media…just that wholistically is something im really happy about.”

“Driving a bike makes you more aware, it makes you more alert because you’re constantly focusing on what’s around you. You’re not sitting down pressing a gas pedal and moving a steering wheel versus you using all of your motor function.” Here the judge is explaining to the co-council of the Appellee side how the victim getting a ticket has nothing to do with him riding a bicycle.

Media Delegate on how Youth and Government can expand the media section:

“We can show what media does..some people when we talk about media say things like, “Oh we have a Media section?” So i believe we should put media more out there by making videos, posting some pictures, and just showing everyone how fun it is so we aren’t as overlooked in the future.”

2020-02-01T10:02:26-06:00February 1st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Genetically Modified Organisms: Friend or Foe?

By Mason Daugherty – 12th Grade – McKinney YMCA

Calm Before the Storm

Eli Scott, 12th Grade, McKinney YMCA delivers his opening statements in the Senate Chamber on the conferences first bill, FS055, entitled, “An act providing tax incentives to producers of genetically modified produce and declaring an emergency.”

Rising Tides

Lining the chamber walls, Emma LeBlanc, 12th Grade, McKinney YMCA sits alongside other lobbyists as they each take stances either in favor or opposition of the bill. She mentions that “…there was a much larger [Governor’s] Cabinet presence than usual, which led us to believe she [Governor Tadiwa Mujokoto] wanted it dead.”

Waking the Beast

During the question and answer period, numerous delegates inquired about ecological implications the bill has. Sidarth Joshi says that “…the increased use of genetically modified seeds will inevitably lead to a decrease in biodiversity. How does this bill intend to safeguard nature for future generations?” For which Scott had no answer prepared.

Strategizing

Senate member Daniel Bain, Fort Bend Houston YMCA strongly supports the bill, saying “…the crop yield of organic food is way lower than GMO-derived foods, and additionally, studies conducted by the NOAA have concluded that organic foods have a larger carbon footprint… ”

Hallway Fact Checks

Nestled in a corner outside the Senate chamber, Governor’s Cabinet member Nathaniel Lambert, 12th Grade, McKinney YMCA works diligently to build arguments for and against bills which support governor Tadiwa Mujokoto’s agenda.

Thought-Policing

Daniel Bain, Fort Bend Houston YMCA lobbies neighboring delegates to support the bill, responding to concerns brought up by opponent speakers over inconclusive studies. Bain tells me “taking environmental science courses at my school made this bill a match in heaven for me.”

Challenging Amendments

In response to an amendment proposed to decrease the bills penalties, Heath Johnston from Dallas YMCA asks about the proper way to handle infractions and how the proposed legislation will deal with existing agricultural boards throughout the State of Texas.

Opposite Sides Clash

Each with Senate members, Armaan Sood, 12th Grade, McKinney YMCA and a member of the Governor’s Cabinet and Lobbyist Alex Gonzalez, 12th Grade, McKinney YMCA fight in a match of political “tug-of-war,” with Sood arguing against the bill because of unproven science and Gonzalez lashing back with positive implications the bill’s provisions could have on food insecurity in the State of Texas.

Surmounting Pushback

Lobbyist Ben Liang, Vic Coppinger YMCA attempts to sway a senate member in opposition of the bill, responds to their concerns over the detriment the bill could have on small businesses by exacerbating monopolization.

Reflecting

Oluwaseun Kuti exchanges an upbeat glance with her partner. FS055 ultimately passed in both the Senate and House, and now awaits review from governor Mujokoto.

2020-02-01T09:53:20-06:00February 1st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Day One at the Capitol

By Tyler McClanahan

       Five delegates from FBCA headed to one of their trials. They all have worked very hard to get here and they strive to go farther. The five delegates came out of the trial with a success and more confidence than before. After the trial I asked Josiah Matthews what his opinion was of this trial, he said “I felt good going into it and I feel even better coming out, I have no doubt that the next one will be another success.”

       The first to come off the bus is three delegates from FBCA. They all have a good but long day ahead of them. Their first trial was tough at first, but after that trial they got everything together and did their best to succeed. Luis Salazar told me “today is just the start, so we must do our best.”

       These new delegates decided to pose for a picture during lunch. First time at state can be nervous but this group is not worried. They had a good day but it wasn’t over yet. They plan on the rest of the day to be intensive but also successful.

       This delegate is new to state, but that doesn’t bother her. She’s walking to her trial expecting to do amazing and nothing less. The halls of the capital made things confusing for new delegates but everyone caught on fast. This first day of state was a start for everyone.

       These two judges are taking a break after their first trials that started off their day. Those first trials are intense and packed with a lot of important information. These judges aren’t phased by anything that comes their way.

     Practicing for his first trial to start off his day is Manny Carmouche. He’s familiar with everything here that state has to offer so he’s expecting for his day to go well. Today he was worried at first but he said “what is there to worry about? We are all already here.” He is saying that we shouldn’t worry because there’s no going back.

       Coming back from a difficult, but interesting, trial is Andy Nguyen. His mindset of all of his trials are positive, never negative. During a trial he’s always focused and zoned into what’s going on. Some people notice his effort to do well and that inspires them.

       After a long and slow trial these delegates decided to discuss what they did right and what they did wrong. Discussing these things are important and helps you to improve. When they discuss the things they did wrong they find ways to fix the problem and make it better.

       The delegates here are discussing what to do during certain situations in the trials today. When they practice these delegates like to have fun while doing it. It’s good to be able to practice something and have fun while doing it because that shows that you truly like what you do.

       These delegates are talking to the judge of their recent trial about what they should do to improve. All the information they took in was positive and they learned from everything they did in each trial. The judge gave them the feedback they needed to practice and get better. All of the delegates did something to better themselves for their trials.

       

2020-02-01T09:43:46-06:00February 1st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Governor Candidate – Griffin White

 

Griffin White is running to be your 2021 Texas YMCA Youth Governor. White has goals to increase communication and networking opportunities within each of the districts, as well as across the state. With this, White will strive to coordinate pertinent information and create mentors across different sections of Youth and Government. Through networking and mentorship, White will achieve his ultimate goal of expanding the Youth and Government program in order to bring this unique opportunity to the most amount of people.  Let’s start this decade right, with Griffin White.

2020-02-01T09:12:32-06:00February 1st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

State Affairs Forum- Room 5B Moody Family YMCA-Highland Park High School

By Erin Fleming

Delegates Bella Tiscareño, Sophie Robertson, and Rachel Sobolevitch organize papers before introducing their proposal about the necessity of sexual education in high schools. This was the team’s second time competing in the State Affairs Forums.

Before the first proposal, the delegates were given evaluation forms to fill out after every proposal in order to give constructive feedback and criticism of why or why not they think a fellow delegate’s proposal should be passed.

Delegate Bella Tiscareño peer reviews Delegate Rachel Sobolevitch’s notes about the opening statement. The team is excited to continue introducing their proposal to people. Delegate Tiscareño states, “I am passionate about this proposal and I think it is very relevant in society today,” as they conclude their statements about their proposal.

Delegate Sophie Robertson rises to speak con on the first proposal for the authors Delegate Rodolfo Rios and Delegate Lacy Williams. Delegate Robertson stated valuable claims, which were used in the closing summation.

Delegate Bella Tiscareño, speaks against the second proposal from the author Emily Underwood, regarding the legalization of mitochondria replacement. Delegate Tiscareño claims “mitochondrial replacement needs to be illegal as it is immoral”. Delegate Irvin also spoke con to this proposal.

Delegate Maddison Irvin rises to speak pro on Delegates Tiscareño, Sobolevitch, and Robertson’s proposal. Delegate Irvin states the importance of this proposal to vote pro, which helped the Delegates, because they were able to use her viewpoint, to their advantage in their closing statement.

During the non-debatable question and answer period, the team of delegates listen to a fellow delegates speak pro on their proposal. There was no suggested amendments for their proposal, this team of delegates were “happy with their execution of their proposal.”

Chair Emily Ramsey and Chair Amelia Garcia, sat at the front of the room, keeping time and order to run the proposals smoothly. Understanding the time constraint, appropatly cutting delegates off and mandating the pro/con period of debate from two rounds to one round.

During a five minute recess, delegates read over upcoming proposals, and jot down quick notes helping to decide whether to vote pro or con. Delegate Robertson said, “I enjoy listening to everyone else’s proposal because I think it is very informative and I learned a lot today.”

Delegates Tiscareño, Robertson, and Sobolevitch smiling after introducing their proposal. The team was able to defend their proposal through many tough questions. Afterwords, Delegate Sobolevitch said, “I was pretty nervous for the question period time but I was confident we could defend ourselves.” This was the teams first ever Youth and Government State conference participating in State Affairs.

2020-01-31T14:43:33-06:00January 31st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Governor Candidate – Vivienne Garner

Vivienne Garner is running to be your next Texas YMCA Youth Governor. Garner is advocating for the Youth and Government program to be improved at every level, from local chapters to the State Conference. This will allow every delegate to have the opportunity to call Youth and Government their family. Garner is planning to do this by renovating chair and clerk training, spreading the work about Youth and Government, providing support for smaller local chapters, and providing scholarship opportunities for delegates. Help her help you, and vote for V.

2020-01-31T14:15:46-06:00January 31st, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments