In honor of the 2018-2019 program year kicking off this fall, we’ll be featuring some of our YG clubs and their exciting accomplishments on our blog over the next few weeks.  First up in our new school profile series:  Akins High School in the Austin District!  Thanks to Mr. Armin Salek for sharing his and his club’s experiences.

As an advisor, what initially drew you to YG?  What keeps you motivated to support your students in the program?

Our school has been involved in YG Mock Trial for several years now, and it’s actually one of the reasons why I joined Akins. As an attorney, I wish I had the opportunity to get courtroom experience at their age. Now, I get to help high school students learn concepts that I didn’t get introduced to until I was almost a decade older than them. This is such a big advantage for our students, especially because they are in a law academy, and many of them are aspiring attorneys. They learn real legal applications while developing the soft skills that they can use regardless of the industry they choose in the future. And it’s fun! We spent three months preparing for the District and State competitions, and every single day I expected the students to burn out and get tired of all the work that goes into it.  Instead, they were engaged, excited, and enthusiastic.

Share some of your club’s proudest YG-related accomplishments.

The students would probably say that the proudest moment was earning fifth place at State Conference in county mock trial. They worked hard and earned the first-ever top ten placement for our school. For me, expanding the program is something that I’m very proud of. We grew from one mock trial team to three this year, and we welcomed underclassmen for the first time. Our team of freshmen ranked in the top ten at the local competition and qualified for the District Court mock trial competition at State. We are all very excited to improve from this year and to keep adding more teams as we get more students involved.

What topics are your students most passionate about?

Immigration and criminal justice reform are two topics that the students are very passionate about. Whenever these subjects come up in class, the students are dialed in, engaged, and very open to sharing their ideas. A major contributor to that is the fact that these two issues have touched on so many of their lives. Especially immigration. We have students that are here on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) waiting for updates to see if they will be allowed to stay here long enough to finish high school. We have a large number of Hispanic students that are hearing daily sound bites coming from politicians about how folks like them are impacting this country. And while some family members may end up cut off from their relatives by a wall, others are sitting behind bars. Unfortunately, the number of students that have been impacted by a loved one’s incarceration is very high as well. Regardless of the circumstances, these students have so much love for their family members, so addressing these topics is a major concern of theirs.

What are some of the club’s goals for the 2018-2019 program year?

Now that I’m no longer a YG rookie coach and we have a returning group of fantastic team members, I would love to see us grow to even more mock trial teams and possibly add other sections. The appellate section is something that I have experience with and think the team would enjoy. For some of our returning team members, we may try to prepare as judges as well. We are definitely trying to increase our involvement and keep improving regardless of what we are competing in.

Looking forward to seeing what Akins does in 2018/2019!