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This year they argued in front of screens instead of in courtrooms.
High School Mock Trial is often lauded for giving students important real-world experiences, and the 2021 season in South Carolina was no different. Afterall, it’s been a year of lawyers presenting cases to judges via web platforms across the country.
Bob Jones Academy of Greenville recently took home the 2021 State High School Mock Trial Championship in the virtual competition, sponsored by the South Carolina Bar Law Related Education (LRE) Division. Regional and state competitions were held virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Mock Trial is an amazing program that has a lasting impact on the lives of our participants – students, teachers, attorney coaches, and judges,” said Cynthia H. Cothran, director of the South Carolina Bar’s LRE Division. “With this year’s added virtual component, all participants showcased their determination and perseverance to overcome life’s challenges and succeed at something they enjoy doing. We hope everyone had a memorable competition experience.”
The Bob Jones Academy team, led by teacher Chuck Nicholas and attorney coach Allen Fretwell, will represent the Palmetto State virtually at nationals in May. Carolina Forest High School of Myrtle Beach, coached by teacher Anthony Antolak and attorney Brad Smith, was first runner-up. The teams performed in two competitive championship rounds to a 13- member virtual jury on March 13. Top Middle School Mock Trial teams from regional competitions held in late February were winner Johnson-Edgefield-Trenton (JET) Middle of Johnson and first runner-up Bob Jones Academy.
“High School Mock Trial is the epitome of part of our mission statement,” Nicholas said. “We are training the leaders of tomorrow in basic analytical communication skills and participating in this competition enables good people to develop into successful citizens.”
Mock Trial develops critical thinking during pressured circumstances and helps students hone other key skills such as collaboration, adapting to different audiences, reading critically and matching material facts with elements of the law.
“The virtual competition was obviously different than being in person, but my team did not complain or hesitate,” Antolak said. “They are a great group of kids that love to learn and compete.”
To students, benefits of participating on the Mock Trial team are pervasive despite the confines of the pandemic.
“Even with all that’s going on this year, I am so thankful for Mock Trial and the friendships I’ve been able to grow,” said Bob Jones Academy junior Bella Sanders, who served as a witness and a lawyer.
Added Antolak of Carolina Forest High, “Our senior captains Caelia Allen and McKenna Bright set the tone for practice and attitude,” Antolak said. “They chose to focus on the learning and competition instead of missing out on in person competition. This resiliency led to countless hours of studying, reading, practice and performance. I know their legacy will be passed down to our next team captains.”
The Mock Trial Program is sponsored by the SC Bar’s LRE Division, which was developed in 1976 to improve the ability of teachers to instruct law related education. The program is supported by the Bar’s LRE Committee and made possible through a SC Bar Foundation Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts grant and the SC Bar. The program cultivates understanding of the legal system as well as critical thinking skills, problem analysis and teamwork.