‘Absolutely rocked it’: The Park School’s mock trial team first from Maryland to win national championship By CAMERON GOODNIGHT
The Park School of Baltimore, a private school located on Old Court Road in Baltimore County, recently won the National High School Mock Trial Championship, becoming not only the first Maryland school to send its team to the national competition but the state’s first national mock trial champion.
Mock trial competitions test students ability to understand the legal process in simulated trials. Students are provided a case, assigned roles as attorneys or witnesses, and compete against other schools as the prosecution or defense. Park School demonstrated outstanding performances of this criteria through the state and national competitions this year, according to the team’s coaches.
“This team just absolutely rocked it start to finish,” said Matt Rogers, one of Park School’s attorney coaches.
Hosted virtually on Zoom from Evansville, Indiana, the national competition included 46 state champions, as Park School successfully defeated four “power matched” state champions from Florida, Ohio, Georgia and Illinois — earning them a 4-0 record through the tournament before beating Iowa City High School in the championship round on May 15.
Park School’s teacher-coach Tony Asdourian explained that “power matched” opponents won their first match in the competition and faced off against undefeated teams.
“After two matches, the team that is 2-0 faces a team that is 2-0,” he said. “It’s designed so that the best teams get filtered out by the four rounds of the competition.”
Senior team captain Lucy Demsky said the team was excited going into the final round and “over the moon” once they heard Iowa City High School was the runner-up.
“I think that our whole team really came to play and really put all of their hard work and dedication on what we’ve been working on for the entire season into that trial,” she said.
Just a few weeks before competing at nationals, Park School defeated River Hill High School on March 11 in the Maryland Youth and the Law’s 2021 Mock Trial Virtual Championship to become state champions.
“The second we won our state championship — instead of enjoying that for 30 seconds — our two team captains immediately started sending emails to the national competition committee as well as our state competition committee,” Rogers said.
An unconventional Maryland state championship schedule due to the pandemic allowed Park School an opportunity to compete at nationals this year which started on April 1, said Rogers.
“Generally the Maryland state competition ends too late for us to participate in the national competition at all,” he said. “But because of COVID, the competitions were being done on Zoom and we were actually able to accelerate the schedule a little bit. We finished our state competition early enough that it allowed a small sliver of opportunity to compete in the national competition.”
Rogers credited his team for noticing the different schedule for the state competition and pushing to be in National tournament.
“Our students just would not take no for an answer and ended up getting us enrolled in the National competition,” he said.
Demsky reflected on begging committee coordinators to allow Maryland into the national tournament.
“[Co-captain Aidan Connors] was really the driving force,” she said. “She was full steam ahead emailing all the nationals people trying to figure out ways to get Maryland in and we were all right there behind her — helping her by emailing, calling people, working with our Maryland coordinators, so they could work with the nationals coordinators.”
After getting accepted into the tournament, Park School had six weeks to prepare a case and learn the rules and practices of a new competition that they had never participated in before. Park School’s mock trial team included 15 members and four coaches, although only nine members competed at nationals.
“They worked as hard as they possibly could for the six weeks practicing a couple times a week, sometimes late into the night,” Rogers said. “It was really the kids. They did all the brainstorming, case theory, forming, practice — we were just there to help.”
Park School has reached significant success at the state level in the past. With their recent state championship in March, they now have won five Maryland State Championships, which is more than any other school.
There are also the only school in the state to win back-to-back titles, Rogers said.
This was the first year that any Maryland State Champion competed in the National High School Mock Trial Championship.
“I am so proud of my entire team,” Demsky said. “Not only has Maryland never been to nationals before but the first time we went we won.”
Maryland’s High School Mock Trial State Champion, The Park School of Baltimore County, Wins Nationals
2021 Marks First Time Maryland Has Participated in National Mock Trial Competition!
The Park School of Baltimore County are CHAMPIONS – again! Just a few short weeks ago, Park defeated River Hill in (MYLAW) Maryland Youth and the Law’s 2021 Mock Trial Virtual Championship. But their ambition wasn’t quite exhausted. For the first time ever, Maryland registered to send its state champion to the National High School Mock Trial Competition hosted by the Indiana State Bar Association.
With only 6 weeks of preparation and 4-5 intense weekly practices, The Park School successfully defeated four other “power matched” state champions from Florida, Ohio, Georgia and Illinois, earning them a 4-0 record. After competing against Iowa in the final Championship round, Park seized the 2021 National High School Mock Trial Championship title on May 15, 2021. Overall, 46 state championship teams competed in the National Mock Trial Competition.
The hardworking team of 15, including four graduating seniors, one sophomore and a freshman, was led and supported by Park’s teacher coach, Tony Asdourian, and three attorney coaches who volunteered their time to help make this moment possible for Park’s Mock Trial team. The attorney coaches included Jim Wyda, Matt Rogers and Judge Guido Porcarelli. With approximately 30 practice sessions, the team demonstrates that hard work and persistence does pay off!
Congratulations to The Park School of Baltimore County!
“My ultimate career goal is to become a social justice/advocacy lawyer and defend under-represented communities. I want to help those who need help and give them a voice."
The summer of 2018 was nothing short of a memorable experience for Taylor-Simone Johnson. It was through her Law Links internship with the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City that Taylor-Simone learned of the complexities of the legal professions, importance of professionalism, and value in making connections.
Next fall, with a scholarship from the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, Ms. Johnson will be pursuing a double major in English and Philosophy with a minor in Africana Studies at either the University of Maryland College Park or the Johns Hopkins University. Taking those lessons learned from her Law Links experience, this is the next step in her journey towards a meaningful career in social justice advocacy.
Her advice to future Law Links interns?
Always act your best regardless of where you are because you “will never know who is watching and taking notes”.
Her exceptional performance as a Law Links intern earned Ms. Johnson an invite to a retreat in Atlanta hosted by Marjorie Harvey of the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation. It was through professionalism and personality that Taylor-Simone earned the support to pursue her passion for social justice and we at MYLAW have no doubt that these traits may carry her through to success!
Are you an alumni of MYLAW's Law Links, Law Academy, Teen Court, City Council Page, Moot Court, or High School Mock Trial Competition programs? If so, we need YOU to tell YOUR story of success!
Thaakirah Cason, a rising 3L at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, knows how much MYLAW cares about her and her future. Thaakirah is an alum of MYLAW programs for youth. Her first experience with MYLAW was back in June 2010 when she joined a group of youth to participate in MYLAW’s (formally Citizenship Law Related Education Program) Summer Center for Law & Government. One of the highlights of the program for Thaakirah was meeting various legal professionals exclusive to Baltimore. Thaakirah knew she had a love for the law at an early age, and shared, “I was intrigued with the law. I knew it was something I knew I wanted to do. It was helpful at that age to hear professionals in the legal field give first-hand knowledge on how to become an attorney or judge - the time it took and process to take to get there.” The Summer Center intensified her interest.
Maggie Staudenmaier, 2019 City Council Page, and student of City College High School, presented her Advocacy Project on Tuesday, May 7 in front of City Council members. Following her presentation, she was invited to formally pitch her idea to a committee of council members during Tuesday morning's hearing. Maggie's project focused on curbside composting, in an effort to cut waste, improve the environment, and decrease methane emissions.
Dale Vester catapulted from troubled youth to JROTC cadet at Patterson High School, all with the help of the MY Teen Court program. MY Baltimore City Teen Court receives cases that would otherwise be processed through the Department of Juvenile Services. Dale found himself in trouble because as he put it, “I was doing stupid stuff just to fit in with my homeboys.” Dale openly admitted that back then he didn’t have an open mind and that MY Teen Court program “woke me up and I realized the charges that I had could have gotten me in really big trouble.” Dale was forced to accept responsibility for his actions in front of his peers and his family. Knowing he hurt his mother and father because of his poor decisions had a tremendous impact on him. “I love my family,” Dale affirmed. Youth respondents like Dale are required to complete all sanctions imposed by Teen Court. To complete his sanctions, Dale was required to return to Teen Court as a Juror to deliberate on sanctions to impose on other Respondents. Dale says acting as both a MY Teen Court Respondent and Juror provided him perspective. While listening to other Respondents tell their stories, Dale realized how bad influences in life can get you in trouble with the law. He also gained perspective of how the justice system works. Dale explained that now he can see things from all sides. The experience helped Dale to discover himself and pushed Dale to “do better.” Now Dale is a JROTC cadet and looks forward to a military career in the Air Force as a military technical engineer. He is currently studying for the SAT’s and, with the support of Colonel York and Technical Sergeant Smith, Dale will take the ASVAB Air Force entrance exam. Dale credits MY Baltimore City Teen Court program with helping him get on track and stay out of trouble.
Well, it IS Mock Trial season after all, and not just in Maryland. Since 1983, more than 66,000 Maryland students have participated in the MSBA Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition...and many have gone on to achieve great things. Take Andrew Del Vecchio, for instance. He's a former team member of Montgomery County's Richard Montgomery Mock Trial program. It's not enough that he went on to attend Yale. Nooo. This guy's a super-star! He's part of Yale's Mock Trial team that has reached the National Championship Match five years running...and was victorious in 2016 and again this year. Not too shabby, Andrew...not too shabby at all. We know Mr. Evans is proud of you, and so are all of us at MYLaw! #mocktrial