By Jan Hiebert

For The Union Democrat

T he Summerville High School Foundation recently partnered with Sonora Area Foundation and an anonymous donor to award a Bear Grant of $3,100 to Summerville’s Mock Trial Team, one of the largest academic awards ever given by the foundation.

Mock Trial is an extracurricular activity at the high school, headed up by the group advisor, Shane Patey. This is Patey’s second year at Summerville, and he had worked with mock trial teams for four years, beginning at his former teaching assignment at Patriot High School in the Jurupa Valley, Riverside County.

For nearly 40 years, the Constitutional Rights Foundation has conducted mock trial competitions. Currently, the program involves 36 California counties and is attached to a state and national competition for high school students. Each year a new case is presented regarding important issues facing America’s youth.

The case for 2018 revolves around free speech and violence. The hypothetical criminal case is a first-degree murder charge of a demonstrator at a political rally. It involves a pretrial motion attempting to suppress GPS evidence that the defense will claim is illegally obtained and is in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In all the competitions held around the state in various counties, high school teams take a side and either prosecute or defend their client. Following teams set about researching and preparing their cases, using previous criminal cases as precedent. During competition, teams conduct opening statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses and present closing statements.

All this activity is done in actual courthouses with local county judges who volunteer their time to hear the cases. This year local defense attorneys Brad Young, Jim Webster and Stephanie Novelli, DDA, volunteered their time to assist the Summerville team members in preparing for competition.

Team members from Summerville traveled several times to the Central Valley to participate with valley schools. There is no mock trial competition, yet, in Tuolumne County.

“Because of our close losses [ to other teams}, I believe that they were definite victories for us,” Patey said. “As this was our first year, the opposing teams had more to prove as they were challenged by a Summerville team that expressed their individual dedication and represented their strong community and family background.”

Students gain skills that can carry them into their adult years such as public speaking, analytic ability, logical thinking, team cooperation, the ins and outs of the U.S. Constitution, and countless other skills that will prepare them for an ever-changing world.

After the competition, since the Summerville Mock Trial Team couldn’t win any official awards because they competed out of their own county, the students made a “celebration stop” at Cold Stone Creamery on the way home from Stockton. Locally, the team members chose their “most valuable” players: Caleb Britt, a senior, chosen as Best Prosecution, and Best Defense award went to Kaila Lloyd, a sophomore.

Bear Grants, like the one awarded to the Mock Trail Team are submitted three times a year to the Foundation.

Paperwork is reviewed by the School Site Council, a team of staff members and the district superintendent before the grant requests reach Wayne de Gennaro, the Bear Grant chairman.

Funding is usually awarded for innovative, creative ideas in curriculum, improvements to sports fields, field trips, books and sometimes equipment that might be needed in a classroom to do a new project.

The entire staff at Summerville Union High School District can use the Bear Grant Request to receive funding for projects that enhance the arts, academics or athletics.