Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Babies are the greatest


Alot of of the dialogue in Black America (as well as a good number of my posts)center around the issues & problems of Black youth in our community. While there are enough issues to go around, I wanted to take a different approach today and celebrate the positive acheivements of our youth who are braving the negative elements and being successful. Below is a article from the Philadelphia Daily News chronicling the success of Black & Brown babies in a national Mock Trial contest.

I never participated in mock trial; I joined the debate team in High School, b.u.t. I just went for the girls. Even with that, I learned a valuable lesson in the science of organization & preparation in communication. Check it out, & let me know what you think!

JASON PARKER doesn't get nervous.

Not when he's playing a lawyer in front of four real federal judges - and an audience - with nothing but his wits, his research and what he learned in Philly public schools helping him argue his case.

Not when he's opposed by smart students from throughout the nation, some of whom attend the nation's most privileged schools.

Parker was so cool, he earned a nickname at the National High School Moot Court Tournament Sunday:

Mr. Suave.

"Scared money don't win," Parker said with a grin, in an interview yesterday.

Parker, 17, a junior at the Carver High School of Engineering and Science(!), and fellow Carver student, senior Laeeqa Collins-Pressley, 18, made it to the finals at the moot court competition, held at the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

Two other Philadelphia School District students also did well in the competition: Marcelo Morales, a 13-year-old ninth-grader at the Academy at Palumbo, who made it to the semifinals; and Andrew Howard, 15, a ninth-grader at Constitution High School, who reached the quarter-finals.

It was a huge accomplishment for the students, who faced the top moot-court competitors from throughout the country and proved that Philly's young people are not to be out-argued.

"Our students competed against suburban kids from around the country," said Gwen Stern, director of the University of Pennsylvania Law School's Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project.

The project sends about 30 law-school students into city schools to teach students about constitutional law issues that affect teenagers - cases such as police searches, student press rights and high school locker searches. It's in its second year at Penn.

The literacy project culminates in local moot court competitions. The four students who went to Washington for the national competition first won a competition among about 50 other Philadelphia students. In Washington, they competed with about 70 students from around the country, Stern said.

Parker eventually lost to the student who won the moot court competition - and who happens to be going to Stanford University next year, said Stern.

She added that the competition shows what Philadelphia students can accomplish:

"They are extremely bright kids when they are engaged in a subject they're interested in. They become excited and motivated to learn."

The students argued a faked Fourth Amendment case about two teenage brothers who allege that a police officer conducted an illegal search of their vehicle. In the case, the police officer took their photos without permission, searched their car without consent - and found drugs in it.

Students running the tournament at the Washington College of Law came up with the case, which mimicked the kind of illegal-search case that could be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Parker argued for the teens' side; Collins-Pressley argued the government's position.

"This was a very difficult problem," said Penn law professor David Rudovsky, the literacy project's faculty adviser. "Some of my law students would have had a hard time with it on a final exam. But [the high school students] were able to work through it and understand it."

Parker said that when he first started high school at Carver, he was thinking of becoming an engineer.

"Now, after this, I think I'm going to be a lawyer," said Parker, who lives in Nicetown - and who celebrated his 17th birthday on Sunday, the day of the competition.

Collins-Pressley, from the Northeast, said she hasn't ruled the law out completely, but she's still planning on becoming a physics teacher. "I love math, and I just want to expand that into physics," she said.

Andrew Howard, from West Oak Lane, said the experience confirmed for him that law is in his future. Marcelo Morales used to think about becoming a doctor or dentist, but now he also wants to be a lawyer.

Morales' story is especially powerful. He came to the United States from Argentina at age 7, knowing only a small bit of English.

He started in second grade here but skipped third grade and went into fourth grade. He lives in South Philadelphia.

Morales is tall for his age and when Howard heard that he was only 13, Howard did a double-take.

Asked if he felt uncomfortable going up against much older high school students, Morales said he was nervous at first. But a practice round helped.

"After the practice round, that boosted my confidence. I wasn't nervous anymore.

"I was just trying my best." *

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