FORT MADISON – The progression of the Fort Madison High School’s career training has trickled into the law field.
Fort Madison Attorney Mio Santiago has helped launch a mock trial team at Fort Madison High School so maybe there will be a few more ‘legal eagles’ in that area. But Santiago said that isn’t the main goal of the program.
A group of 13 students will be trekking to Iowa City in a couple weeks for a regional Mock Trial competition sponsored by the Iowa State Bar Association, and the Bloodhounds will be part of the competition for the first time ever, Santiago said.
“I don’t remember there ever being a Mock Trial team since I’ve been around,” he said.
“It’s been going on for years and I used to be on the board of governors for ISBA and I thought that it would be really cool if Fort Madison was able to do one.”
Students involved in the Mock Trial program are Allison Lamb, Ethan Huffman, Jayden Frank, Oliver Santiago, Aiden Benda, Madelyn Gobble, Castille Johnstun, Jake Haessig, Jed Bruster, Jerome Zemlicka, and foreign exchange students Hong Limsuwan, Daniela Matas, and Marie Resseguier.
Santiago said he’s been thinking about the program for several years and this year approached the district about getting it up and running.
“This year I decided to take a swing and see if the school would be interested in starting one to see if the students would be interested,” he said.
“The main objective isn’t to get a new crop of lawyers. That’s not the expectation. It’s important that the kids develop a skill set of presenting persuasive argument in front of people they don’t know.
“I see enough kids that could improve in that. I thought that would be a great skill set to initiate and foster in our district.”
The format of the contest in March involves a legal case that is sent to all the teams in the state and then teams represent both the plaintiff and defendant side of the case. The students develop the roles of the attorneys and the witnesses.
“I guess I would equate it to a cross between debate and drama. The witnesses are acting and the students have a case file,” Santiago said. “These are the facts of the universe and you can’t stray, but you have artistic license between the parameters.”
The students will draw up opening statements, direct examinations, cross-examinations, and closing arguments. They have to adhere to rules of civil procedure.
Fort Madison students will go up against other schools along the southeast side of the state including Mediapolis. They will also be up against Iowa City and Cedar Rapids teams.
The top four teams in each of the six regionals will be invited to compete at the state competition later in the year.
Santiago said the program is filled with kids who he calls “can’t say no kids”.
“These are the kids you see involved in everything in high school, student government, athletics, drama, show choir, band, work.”
“At first our numbers were really strong, but some dropped off. The crew we have now, I give them kudos and appreciate their patience.”
Assistance has been given to the team from District 8B Judge John Wright, FMHS English teacher Randy Sissell, Activities Director Jeff Lamb, and the YMCA Test Kitchen who has given the team practice space.
Santiago also said the district has been extremely supportive of the program.
“Kudos to Jeff Lamb. When I brought this to him, he said absolutely, that sounds great. They’ve been nothing but supportive. I announced the formation of it at a school board meeting and I have had nothing but positive feedback."
Santiago said it will be interesting to see how the students do considering he’s never coached a team and they’ve never had one, but he hopes it creates a foundation going forward.
“I’ve told the students, ‘You get to start this from scratch. You are each founders of the inaugural FM Mock trial team'.”
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