More than 20 local students in grades three through 12 were honored for a variety of accomplishments at the Lycoming County Courthouse Friday afternoon during annual Law Day festivities.
"Law Day was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to counteract the May Day celebrations in many Communist countries," said Judge Joy McCoy. "It's a day to reflect on our court system, to make sure we preserve our heritage of equity and justice under the law."
Mock trial teams from Montoursville and Jersey Shore high schools were recognized for their work. They were given near 100 pages of materials from an actual court case - Commonwealth vs. Tatum Zillias - and had to prepare the prosecution, defense and witness testimonies. They competed against each other and Lewisburg, Mansfield and Wellsboro high schools.
Maria Balestino, a Williamsport High School senior, holds her award-winning painting at Law Day. This work was displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day contest.
"The quality of mock trial just keeps getting better," said Judge Richard Gray. "These young attorneys will say objection! Rule 802! and I have no idea what Rule 802 is, but they do."
Alex Eckard and Samantha Boerner, of Jersey Shore, and Alexis O'Connor and Nicole Payne, of Montoursville, were honored for being best witnesses; Leigh Ann Eisenhauer and Megan Brookens, along with O'Connor and Payne were honored for being best advocates.
Winning essayists in each age category read their work on the topics of "why it is important for the government to treat everyone equally?" (grades K-5); "what does it mean to you to be equal under the laws of the United States?" (grades 6-8); and "what work remains to be done in rectifying injustice and eliminating all forms of discrimination?" (grades 9-12).
Sherry Chen, a fifth-grader at McCall Middle School, forced her reader to take another's perspective:
"Pretend you're black or a person from another country. How does it feel? People hurt you just because of what you look like. Pretend you're white. You're rich and famous. You think being a white person is good? No, not a long time ago. Girls weren't even allowed to go to school, or do anything. How does it feel? Not good."
Other winning essayists were Sierra Aichner, 12th grade, Loyalsock; Anna Stewart, 7th grade, Curtin; Kailey Beltz, 7th grade, McCall; and winning the top prize was Serena Sarch, 11th grade, Williamsport.
Winning artists were Kiley Pentz, 5th grade, McCall; Zach Fisher, 3rd grade, Lyter; Olivia Gautieri, 5th grade, Jackson; Maria Balestino, 12th grade, Williamsport; and, winning the top prize, Kristin Rogers, 10th grade, Hughesville.