La Academia Competes for Place in State Mock Trial Tournament
by Sara Crocker
Like most high school students, Pete Zamora didn’t know much about the law before he signed up for La Academia’s mock trial team.
And anything he did know?
“Law & Order taught me,” he said.
Zamora is one of the 13 students on La Academia’s mock trial team. It’s his second year on the team and he’ll serve as counsel for the plaintiff in a civil case about cyber stalking. This year, he’s feeling more confident.
“Last year I was really nervous about it because I didn’t really know what the competition was, but now I have a good understanding of it,” he said.
La Academia’s team will compete against seven other teams of students from CEC Middle College of Denver, George Washington High School, Denver School of Science & Technology, and Colorado Academy at the Denver Regional High School Mock Trial Tournament today and Saturday.
The two top scoring teams from the Denver tournament will go on to the statewide tournament in March. Since 2004, La Academia has sent teams to the Denver Regional Mock Trial Tournament but they have never gone to the state tournament. In their first tournament, La Academia’s team placed third in the Denver tournament, losing to George Washington High School by three points.
Mock trial became so popular among La Academia students that for the last three years it has been offered as an elective. La Academia is a private school in the Baker neighborhood in Denver and is part of the Denver Inner City Parish.
La Academia junior Steven Garcia has participated in mock trial since he was a freshman.
“It’s just become a good challenge to look forward to every year,” he said.
Judge Jack F. Smith, or Judge Jack as he’s called around La Academia, says the elective course is like an honors class because of the skills the students must use and the level of work they complete. He also cites the successes of those involved with the school’s mock trial team.
“I think every year all of our seniors that were in mock trial have gone to college and they’ve been on scholarship,” Smith said.
Because many of the same students are returning to mock trial, Smith said he hopes the team will do well in the Denver tournament.
Carolyn Gravit, the Denver Bar Association’s Public Legal Education Director and Mock Trial Coordinator, said each year the process helps students develop critical thinking, speaking, reasoning, strategic planning and team collaborative skills.
Zamora said mock trial has helped him with public speaking. He’s also had to think quickly on his feet and be ready for anything.
“You never know what the other schools are going to do,” he said.
La Academia’s mock trial team members are: Jose Barrientos, Isaiah Flores, Steven Garcia, Jeanice Gutierrez, Maria Lara, Davy Nguyen, Jessica Portillo, Domingo Ramos, Diana Rodriguez, Ray Salas, George Trujillo and Pete Zamora. La Academia Assistant Principal Marc-Paul Johnsen is their teacher-coach and Judge Jack F. Smith is the team’s attorney-coach.