Victoria Bechtold Kush & Brian H. Simmons

Students experience mock trials: Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC Adopt-a-School Program

A passion for law and desire to mentor aspiring young people was the perfect combination that led Victoria (pictured top, second from right) and Brian (pictured top left) to spearhead a special project with Pittsburgh Arsenal 6 – 8 as part of United Way’s Adopt-A-School program. Adopt-A-School pairs local companies with local schools to develop customized programs that meet the needs of the students and align with the partners’ skills and interests.

Victoria and Brian were approached by their firm’s United Way employee campaign manager to work with a group of 30 middle school students from Arsenal. They both had prior experience with and a love of helping with mock trials, so they enthusiastically agreed to the project.

The pair of litigators met weekly with the students to present them with the mock trial problem, a criminal case involving a stolen car. Victoria and Brian taught the students the basics of the legal system, worked on public speaking and presentation skills, and how to effectively present a case in court.

As part of the process, students spent a day at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. The mock trial culminated in the students trying the case at the Federal Courthouse in the courtroom of the Honorable Mark R. Hornak. They had the opportunity to be at the counsel table, visit the jury room, jury box and the witness stand. The students came alive as they delivered their positions on behalf of their clients.

“I appreciated the confidence that grew in the students, and the sincere thanks they expressed at the end of the process. It was wonderful.” said Brian.

Both Victoria and Brian are looking forward to the opportunity to participate again.

“This was a chance to jump in and participate in something good. However, I did not know how enriching, heartwarming and life changing it was going to be,” said Victoria.

To get involved with United Way’s Adopt-A-School program, please contact Shauna McMillan at shauna.mcmillan@unitedwayswpa.org.

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