Students from Forsyth Central and South Forsyth high schools will head to Athens next month to compete in the district level mock trial after placing second and third during a regional competition Saturday in Cumming.
The two-day event welcomed about 120 area high school students and more than 70 lawyers, judges and legal professionals to the Forsyth County Courthouse to help with the process.
Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge was all smiles watching the students she coached from West Forsyth High.
“I love these kids,” she said. “Most of the kids I work with on a day-to-day basis have either been hurt or they’re in trouble. And for me, it’s just such a pleasure to spend time with healthy, strong, happy and achieving kids.
“They’re just achievers, and they’re all just great kids. I get as much out of this as I put into it — or more, probably.”
But Kevin Castellano said the mock trial experience during his four years at West was invaluable.
“[The coaches] taught me more than I could ever need, not only in mock trial, but how to be successful in life, and I really appreciate it,” he said. “It’s really one of the best learning experiences you can get as a high school student.”
Castellano said he’s still weighing whether to pursue a career in law or science, but the experience will be useful in either field.
“The rush, you feel it when you get up there and start talking to some real attorneys and a judge. There’s nothing like it,” he said. “Your heart gets going and everyone’s watching you and you get into it. It’s a really good feeling.”
His parents, Joan and Mike, said their hearts were racing as they watched him compete.
“I know he understands and knows the material very well, but as a parent, I’m nervous for him,” Joan Castellano said. “We’re obviously incredibly proud of him and his teammates and it’s just wonderful to see how he’s progressed through the years in mock trial ... and we appreciate everyone that’s involved in putting this together.”
The students are judged not on whether they win or lose a case, but on their arguments, performances and adherence to court rules. The judges also consider how well the participants know and understand the facts. A team from Wesleyan, a private school in neighboring Gwinnett County, took first place.
But it wasn’t about winning or losing for Ryan Yates. The North Forsyth High School senior, who plans to be a patent or corporate attorney one day, said the experience has been the most valuable of his high school career.
“I have always had trouble speaking in front of other people and I believe that mock trial was the golden opportunity to improve my skills in public speaking,” he said.
“After I joined mock trial, I was able to receive more experience and more perspective on what lawyers did in real situations, and mock trial was able to enhance my opinion of wanting to be an attorney.”