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Mock trial: more than just an after-school activity

By Jon Bishop

AYER — On March 5, the Ayer Shirley Regional High School mock trial team lost a playoff match to Westford Academy by only three points.

That’s it.

Here’s how they got there: They went 3-0 in their region.

“If you win your region, you go to the states,” said Peter Gubellini, a social studies teacher and the team coach. Each team is guaranteed three trials, all of which take place in real courthouses.

But Westford Academy also went 3-0, and so the two teams had to face off.

“It was close,” Gubellini said.

The teams weren’t told which sides they’d be on — prosecution or defense. That would be decided by a coin toss.

“The coin toss is probably the most stressful,” said senior Megan Krueger.

And the tournament, according to sophomore Bennett Wilson, was a hard one, because it kept going back and forth.

“Honestly, the entire trial, no one knew who was going to win,” said junior Kristen Bremer. “It was neck and neck until the very end.”

They’re still winners, though — especially because of what happened during the year: The older students welcomed the younger ones, and the whole group became a family. And all of them learned a lot.

Thus the playoff was a sad day, because no one wanted to leave, Gubellini said.

“There are really no grades,” Wilson said. “We all chose to be part of the team and work hard.”

Bremer said that “it’s definitely cool when you first start.” There is so much to learn, she said.

“You go into it not really understanding the law,” she said. “It’s cool to watch it come together.”

Kristina Indeglia, one of the freshmen participants, said that it was harder on the first day because many of the older students already knew the necessary legal lingo.

“The first day, when they were talking, I had no idea what was going on,” she said.

Sydney Greeno, another freshman, agreed.

“When I walked in here the first day, it was kind of intimidating,” she said. “Now I can’t even not remember knowing everything about it.”

But it ultimately leads to what Gubellini called “a really higher order (of) thinking.”

“I still continue to learn things every year,” said Krueger.

Wilson said that it allows them to be creative. It keeps them on their feet.

But it also helps them personally.

“The confidence you get is incredible,” said Bremer, who noted that mock trial can lead to more facility with school presentations.

And it lessened another kind of anxiety: fitting in. Indeglia said that it made high school seem better than she thought it was going to be.

Gubellini said the whole team was classy throughout the season; they all learned the rules and decorum of the courtroom well.

So it’s not a surprise that some of them are considering law careers.

“I definitely think there’s a chance I might go into a field related to law,” Krueger said.

Angelina Cooper, a freshman, said the same. She doesn’t know what she’ll do with her day-to-day life now.

“I want to do mock trial. I miss it,” she said.

Bremer said that doing mock trial creates “so many memories.”

“You just make so many friends,” she said. “It literally is a family.”

And, for Gubellini, that’s the best part.

“It really does become a family. I miss it already,” he said. “It’s incredibly rewarding to watch these kids grow.”

Follow Jon on Twitter and Tout: @JonBishopNP.

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