SAN JUAN – More than 70 high school students in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA) gained insightful knowledge about courtroom legal procedures and received firsthand advice from judges and attorneys at the first district wide Mock Trial Clinic held at PSJA Early College High School on December 20, 2017.

Motivated by the need to prepare students for the upcoming Regional Mock Trial Preliminary Competition in January, PSJA ISD hosted the clinic to offer them the opportunity to learn from attorney advisors and speakers. Session topics included: opening/closing statements; direct cross-examinations, objections, witnesses and courtroom simulation and procedures.

"Our goal with this clinic was to revamp the PSJA Mock Trial program by giving students an opportunity to come and learn the process of a trial from beginning to end in preparation for the competition," said PSJA School Board Vice-President Jesse Zambrano who led the efforts in hosting the clinic.

Student teams from PSJA ECHS, PSJA North ECHS, PSJA Memorial ECHS, PSJA Southwest ECHS and Buell Central participated in the event and networked with numerous professionals in the legal field.

Speakers at the PSJA Mock Trial Clinic included: Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez; Honorable Luis Singleterry; Honorable Nereida Lopez-Singleterry; Honorable Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt; Honorable Marissa Carranza Hernandez; and attorneys Criselda Rincon-Flores and Leah Wise.

"I am very proud of what is happening here at PSJA," the District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez told students during his speech about courtroom etiquette. "I wish you all the best and hope you take advantage of this for the competition."

While in the past PSJA ISD had a Mock Trial team at PSJA North Early College High School, this is the first year that all PSJA ISD high schools participate.

Having learned from the clinic, students are already looking forward to competing.

"This clinic was very helpful," said Alan Gonzalez, a PSJA North ECHS senior who's been a Mock Trial member for the past three years. "We learned a lot of tips and great advice that we will definitely be using in the competition."

After graduating in May with an Associate Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from South Texas College and obtaining his high school diploma, Gonzalez plans to earn his Bachelor's Degree and then apply to law school. The aspiring attorney said he was grateful for the opportunities he has received as a student at PSJA ISD and feels ready for what the future may have in store for him.

"Thank you to PSJA ISD for offering this amazing clinic and offering Mock Trial for all high school students," said Gonzalez. "My favorite part was hearing from judges and attorneys that actually practice law and know what we're going to go through."

All Rio Grande Valley high school Mock Trial teams, including PSJA's, will be competing at the Regional Mock Trial Preliminary Competition that will be held on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at the Hidalgo County Courthouse.