Soon after the Penn High School Mock Trial team was crowned the 2014 state champions, the congratulatory messages on Twitter and other social media began. The students were praised and called an "inspiration." Penn secured its first Indiana Mock Trial championship by defeating long-reigning state champion, John Adams High School of South Bend.
Penn was one of 18 student teams that tested their legal skills at the Indiana State High School Mock Trial Competition last weekend. The snow storm predicted for Sunday forced tournament organizers to scrap the fourth round of the competition and move straight to the championship.
The 2014 event also marked another milestone in the history of Indiana Mock Trial. This was the last year that Lafayette attorney Susan Roberts and a team of volunteers ran the competition. Moving forward, the Indiana Bar Foundation will assume the responsibility for the program.
Roberts, who has volunteered for mock trial and written the cases students use at trial for 24 years, said she was very enthusiastic about the IBF taking over the competition. She is hopeful the foundation will be able to expand the program especially into the southern part of the state.
For her long service to mock trial, Roberts was honored and given a standing ovation during the closing ceremonies. Roberts said watching the students develop poise, public-speaking skills and the ability to think on their feet through their experience with mock trial has been very rewarding. She has been astounded by how the students have brought the cases she writes to life and transformed her characters into real people.
“The fact you have given someone purpose or changed their life, it’s very rewarding,” Roberts said.
Penn High School, in Mishawaka, has regularly competed in the mock trial tournament and finished as runner up. Since 2001, a team from John Adams High School has won the state competition. In 2014, Adams fell just short, coming in second behind Penn.
Roberts gave special credit to the Penn students who had to be very disciplined and focused in their practices. Their coach, Kristen Rodriguez, was based in Chicago and worked with the student via Skype weekdays then traveled to Mishawaka on the weekends.
Penn will compete in the National Mock Trial Competition May 8 – 10 in Madison, Wis. Roberts has agreed to delay her retirement to Florida to help prepare the students.