Trivium Preparatory Academy

Trivium Preparatory Academy mock trial participants included, from left, Brandon Pineda, Ryan Medrano, Sarisha Trivedi, McKenna Franz, Alina Bozhko, Grace Brinker, Lena Massengale and Dante Testini.

Students from Great Hearts Trivium Preparatory Academy in Goodyear competed in the 2021 Arizona High School Mock Trial competition held virtually in late March via Zoom.

Trivium Prep’s Team Crimson placed second at the state mock trial championship in the final round against another Great Hearts team from Veritas Preparatory Academy, Scottsdale, who won by a split-ballot decision. Trivium Prep senior Grace Brinker was named to the all-state team. 

“Over the past four years, mock trial has served as the most rewarding part of my high school experience,” she said. 

“It provides me with the unique opportunity to hone my public speaking skills and knowledge of the rules of evidence, while simultaneously giving me an outlet to showcase my acting and performance skills. Perhaps most importantly, mock trial has taught me how invaluable it is to be part of a team, allowing me to develop friendships that will last a lifetime.” 

This year’s case involved a forest fire in Northern Arizona in which two individuals died. The defendant was charged with two counts of manslaughter and the reckless burning of wildlands for allegedly setting off fireworks. 

Veritas Prep’s team, serving as the prosecution, attempted to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty. Trivium Prep, serving as the defense, attempted to create a reasonable doubt that the defendant had started the fire by bringing forward a meteorological expert who testified the fire was started by lightning, among other strategies.

Trivium Prep’s team consisted of eight students in grades nine to 12: Brandon Pineda (nine), Ryan Medrano (11), Sarisha Trivedi (11), McKenna Franz (11), Alina Bozhko (11), Grace Brinker (12), Lena Massengale (12) and Dante Testini (12). They were coached by Trivium Prep teachers Mindy Brinker and Corey Grable, along with attorneys John Brinker, Mark Freeze and Joe Hinrichsen. 

Having previously competed in mock trial as a participant and a coach, Mindy, who also practiced law before becoming a teacher, started the mock trial program at Trivium Prep in 2015. Since that time, the team has enjoyed immense success, including regional championships and four top-three finishes at the state competition. This year, Trivium Prep had three teams compete in regionals, with one team advancing to the state final. 

“Mock trial helps students develop their skills in critical and analytical thinking, public speaking and persuasiveness,” Mindy said. “It has the advantage of being a lot of fun. We have such talented and hardworking students. I am so proud of all of them and the level of dedication and perseverance that they demonstrated throughout the season that brought them to this level of success.”

Co-sponsored by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education and the Young Lawyers of Arizona, Arizona High School Mock Trial gives students the opportunity to learn about the legal system by researching and participating in a simulated trial. Mentored by teachers and local attorneys, students prepare the prosecution and defense of a fictional case. 

During the simulation, students serve as attorneys and witnesses for the opposing sides of the case. Although the trial is a simulation, students are held to the same standards as if they were in a real-life courtroom, including becoming conversant in arguing the Federal Rules of Evidence.

“My time in mock trial not only helped me gain useful experience but also taught me the values of hard work and dedication,” shared Bozhko, a Trivium Prep junior. “Making it to state with my team was one of my favorite memories of high school thus far, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.” 

Trivium Preparatory Academy is part of the Great Hearts network of tuition free K-12 public charter schools that are open to all students.