Generous donation keeps mock trial on track

(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE)



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Hampden Academy mock trial team practiced opening statements then split up into groups to work on questioning witnesses with attorney coaches James McCarthy (center), Mark Beaumont and teacher Kathryn King. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
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(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE) CAPTION Hampden Academy mock trial team practiced opening statements then split up into groups to work on questioning witnesses with attorney coaches James McCarthy (center), Mark Beaumont and teacher Kathryn King. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
Posted Oct. 11, 2010, at 9:01 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Elena Cravens of Winterport delivered her opening statement with confidence last week before an imaginary judge and jury in a Hampden Academy classroom.

The 17-year-old senior has been on the school’s winning mock trial team since her freshman year. She was on the team last December when Hampden Academy won its seventh consecutive victory and its ninth in the last decade.

She was more sure of her case during the evening practice session than the organizers of the statewide program were earlier this year that there would be funding for a 2010 season.

The program is continuing due to the fundraising of the Friends of Mock Trial, a nonprofit organization composed of teachers, lawyers and parents, said Julie Finn, coordinator for the mock trial program, in a press release last week. The group raised the $15,000 needed to keep the program going.

The Maine State Bar Association had sponsored the competition since 2005 but announced last fall that it could not afford to be the sole supporter of the program in 2010.

Cravens said during practice for Hampden Academy’s first match, scheduled for Nov. 3 against Mount Desert Island’s mock trial team, that she had been worried earlier this year the program might not continue.

“I really would have been upset if there had been no mock trial,” she said.

More than 340 students from 22 high schools in Maine competed in mock trials in 2009, learning valuable skills such as public speaking, rules of law and persuasive arguments, Finn said in the press release.

A wide range of donors, including the Narragansett Number One Foundation in Bar Mills and the law firm Berman Simmons in Lewiston, saved the program. But a $4,000 donation from Rick and Debbie Lazar of Seattle, Wash., who summer in Maine, and matching funds from the Lazars’ Bangor law firm, Gross, Minsky & Mogul, secured the program’s immediate future.

The Lazars made the donation in memory of their daughter, Corrie Lazar, who was an active member of her college mock trial group, according to the press release.

“We are very grateful to all of the generous supporters of the mock trial program in Maine,” Elizabeth Stouder, the Portland lawyer who co-chaired the fundraising effort, said last week. “The mock trial program gives students hands-on experience in the rules of law as well as practice with public speaking and quick thinking. We are thrilled to be able to continue the program this year and have even raised additional funds to go towards the next year as well.”

Those are some of the reasons Jordan Henry, 16, of Hampden cited for joining the mock trial team last year.

“It’s a fun experience,” he said, “but it also helps me a lot in being more analytical, a better public speaker and English student.’

Being part of the Hampden Academy team does carry its own unique pressures, according to Cravens.

“You don’t want to be the first ones to lose in 10

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