Re-living Mock Trial from a Teacher's Point of View

Arupa Chung-A-Hing is a senior at New York University and a Civic Engagement Intern for Citizen Schools New York. She is a recipient of the Rudin Scholarship which allows her to work with a nonprofit organization for a semester. She is leading a mock trial apprenticeship this semester at Bronx School of Young Leaders.

My student, Kya, is everything I wasn't when I joined the mock trial team back in high school—confident, fierce, and a risk taker. Teaching and coaching her this semester made me realize that she is exactly the type of student I wish I could have been when I first began my mock trial journey as a timid and nervous tenth grader.

The mock trial team at my school was competitive and cutthroat. I was on a team with older students who had more experience. It was a thrilling challenge which helped me grow as a person. Six years and many competitions later, I eventually came out of my shell and became known as the “Take-No-Prisoner” lawyer. Looking back on that moment made me realize I wanted to lead a mock trial class to help middle school students experience that same sense of accomplishment. Even though they are younger than I was when I started, I knew the early exposure would be beneficial to their development. They rose to the challenge...

Rather than drill witnesses about crime scenes and lawsuit injuries like I did during my mock trial days, I am now coaching a team of 20 sixth-graders at the Bronx School of Young Leaders to present their own civil case. From the start, ten-year-old Kya stood out amongst her peers. Naturally intuitive and a fearless public speaker, Kya always asked questions about the case and courtroom procedures.

She served as an excellent model for other students, who too, have begun to step out of their shells and into roles as lawyers and witnesses. Infinity, one of the shyer students, eventually grew to embody the same fearlessness that stood out in Kya. This experience made me realize how important it is as teachers to believe in all students—those whom are inherently bold and those who start off shy, like me. I was able to see myself in my students--reliving my own high school transformation as I watched them grow in my class. I saw that with enough encouragement, faith, and confidence from teachers, all students are capable of reaching their highest potential.

The most rewarding aspect of my internship experience so far has been the connection with my students, all of whom have served as great inspirations to me. At the end of the semester Kya stated, “Mock Trial made me enjoy learning about law. I have more information to be a lawyer when I am older.” Despite being overwhelmed at times, these simple words have truly made my entire experience worthwhile.

In addition to Kya’s enthusiasm, Infinity's growth also made me want to continue to serve other students who begin mock trial-- or any class-- as timid and nervous observers.  Seeing the students turn into confident leaders who can control the courtroom is extremely rewarding. Looking back at myself six years ago and seeing who I am now has made my experience come full circle. I realized that my passion for mock trial does not end with the courtroom, but rather continues through teaching the youth.

Kya now serves as an attorney for the defense, and Infinity is the lead witness. Their bold attitudes and eagerness to learn will undoubtedly allow them to achieve their goals. Perhaps, one day, they can both be a “Take-No-Prisoner” lawyer. But, for now, they serve as my inspiration to continue on my own path to pursue law and share that passion with deserving kids.

You can experience the same inspiration this spring by signing up to teach an apprenticeship with Citizen Schools.