Mock Trials: A Life-Changing Experience

Shanae Sadler is a Citizen Schools alumna and a current Sophomore at Boston Community Leadership Academy. She gave the opening speech to an audience of hundreds at the Mock Trial event at the Moakley Courthouse on Tuesday December 6th.

This is her speech. 

Good Evening, students and parents, lawyers and judges, my name is Shanae Sadler. I am a Sophomore at Boston Community Leadership Academy and I’m here to tell you how one opportunity can change you and mold you into an image that you may have never imagined for yourself: a superhero. That is what the Citizen Schools program and my mock trial experience with Discovering Justice have done for me.

Apprentices, when I participated in Mock Trials, I remember sitting right where you are today. I was nervous, confused, and ecstatic all at the same time. But, here is some advice, take a minute and take a breath because we are all here to support you.  

Although I may seem confident and poised today, that was not always the case. I started Citizen Schools as a sixth grader making a fresh entrance at the Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park. I started off as a girl with a personality so quiet and deep that not a soul could see it. I never bent nor broke a rule in school. I was shy, quiet, and simple, but this program and this evening changed me.  

At first, some parts of Citizen Schools were more helpful than others. AIM time seemed to last for days, and doing homework was never a problem for me so I spent most of my time completing extra credit sheets….in silence.  However, I really began to break out of my shell trying new things and gaining new skills through apprenticeships, which are like elective classes you take for one semester. Through this experience, I tried many field jobs such as Architecture, Entrepreneurship, and Forensic Science, but my favorite apprenticeship of all was Mock Trials.

In my school, we actually had two Mock Trial pitches. At the time, I did not know much about the law field and was not sure which was better suited for my personality. But, Ropes and Grey’s option really caught my eye. The case was about a girl who posted pictures on Your Space of her friend smoking on school grounds…and the smoker was going to lose his scholarship. I thought, now I can take on this case and have justice be served!

We worked hard on the case for months. Every Wednesday I went downtown with my team to the firm. Once we arrived in the office, our Citizen Teachers, Bonnie and Ryan, would welcome us with big smiles and cookies, and remind us how many days were left until the big WOW!.  We each worked with a mentor on our specific topic. I learned about direct questions and the role of each lawyer, jury, and witness.   

Finally, 10 weeks had past, we had worked hard to prove our case, and I was ready. Ready to have that trial in front of a judge.  And when I got up in front of the judge I realized, “this takes some guts”.

I presented my case. The case I had worked so hard on.  And you know what? We lost.  Yep, the judge ruled against us.  But you know what else? When the judge ruled against us, I wasn’t sad or mad. Instead, I was proud of my hard work. But, since first I did not succeed in Mock Trials, I decided to try it again the next semester. This time I won and I felt even better gaining more leadership, courage, ambition, and maybe there was just a little bit of competitiveness.

Now that I am getting older, I can reflect back on how something so simple can make such a drastic change in someone’s life.  Mock Trials gave me confidence to think on my feet and provided motivation to help me make a good presentation. This experience made me realize that my words will make an impact, positively or negatively.  

That brings us to my future career.  Like everyone in this room, I dream of being successful.  Not in the high school sense of being the most popular.  But in the long term sense. Success to me means making change and I want to do that through journalism. This career allows me to write about the world around me while helping to raise awareness about things that I am passionate about.   

Now, one of the things I’ve learned about being a good journalist is that you have to ask the right questions, which, coincidentally, is one of the skills I developed in Mock Trials. I learned asking the right questions and actively listening are skills that all Journalists need, skills that all Lawyers need, and, I guess, they’re the same skills that anyone needs if they want to succeed.

Mock trials was a very rewarding and challenging experience. But since then, I have seen a lot of changes in my life. I began as a shy and scared girl and I am now a respectful, intelligent woman. I am now a leader and I have a voice.  Mock Trials gave me that voice.  I am now ready to wear that red cape.

Apprentices, tonight I have shared some of the ways those experiences have served me well. So I want to turn the tables and leave you with a question:

What are the good things you’ll be taking away from this experience,

…and how will you let this experience affect your life?

Thank you and good luck to all!