Fifth graders in the Huntington School District’s SEARCH program have annually proved they can be just as crafty in a courtroom as real attorneys. This year’s students will get a chance to display their skills during Trial Day activities next Friday.
“The fifth graders have been analyzing the case of Terry Vickers vs. Sandy Hearst,” said Maryann Daly, the SEACH program’s chairperson-teacher. “This is a civil case in which a model (Vickers) has been severely and permanently injured by a college student named Nicky Ivy after Ivy left a party hosted by Sandy Hearst and collided with Ms. Vicker’s vehicle. Ivy was arrested and charged with DWI. Vickers claims that Hearst violated the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law when he negligently served alcohol to a minor named Ivy. Vickers is suing Hearst for damages, pain and suffering and for millions of dollars she claims she has suffered in lost earnings potential.”
Did you get all of that? Well, the SEARCH fifth graders have been mastering the details of the case along with laws it touches upon. “These young students have become attorneys and witnesses related to this case and are presently preparing their final drafts for trial,” Mrs. Daly said. Trial Day’s legal mentors and judges will include many familiar faces around the district.
Mrs. Daly combs through Huntington High School’s senior class roster each year and chooses a set of students she taught in the SEARCH program as fifth graders. These are teenagers who stood out then and are still sparkling academically today.
Once her list is complete, Mrs. Daly contacts the district’s chair of humanities, Joseph Leavy and shares the names and asks that he contact them. “Not surprising, these students eagerly accepted their roles as mentors and coaches for each of her four teams during the trial,” Mrs. Daly said.
Six judges (three in each courtroom) will preside over the trials, ruling on objections and witness statements and keeping the trial running on time and without too many delays.
“Parents of the 36 children involved in this year’s Trial Day will be in attendance to watch a unique performance, to say the very least,” Mrs. Daly said. “Every year, there are surprises that occur which no one anticipates, which always makes it fun. Students learn that they can defend their points of view, object when appropriate and challenge each other during cross examination. Everyone wins because the learning they take away about themselves when placed in an uncomfortable and challenging position is always invaluable.”
The senior class coaches of the four SEARCH trial teams are students Mrs. Daly fondly recalls as “always coming to weekly SEARCH classes ready and eager for the next challenge and possessing great personalities.”
This year’s mentor coaches are Theresa Moreno, Alexandra Smith, Cloe Stevens and Kevin Gulizio. Judges were selected for their “coolness under pressure, ability to use common sense and logic in their decision making” and for being remembered by Mrs. Daly as “diligent young people always absorbing any and all new challenges that have ever come their way.”
This year’s lineup of judges includes Rachel Roday, Miranda Nykolyn, Jordan Biener, Jacob Strieb, Steve Yeh and Sam Prinzi.
“My difficulty this year more than ever was not including more seniors because this was a very special group of kids I could do anything and everything with and did during our three years together,” Mrs. Daly said.
Preparing for Trial Day and pulling off a successful experience requires much groundwork and multiple educational hands. For the past 15 years, Mrs. Daly has collaborated with Heather Thorgersen, owner and creative director of ThingBig Productions.
Mrs. Thorgersen has successfully led workshops in public speaking for Huntington first graders and for SEARCH program fifth graders, teaching them how to think on their feet, sound and look believable and become more comfortable when delivering their courtroom affidavits.
“We all look forward to Trial Day when the seniors and the fifth graders share another wonderful day together,” Mrs. Daly said. “This day always represents coming full circle when seniors who were once young lawyers and witnesses seven years ago are now judging and guiding my fifth grade students. Spending yet another day together for the first time in seven years is a day I always look forward to.”