Flash Features: news and student achievements

Amara Leonard named Mercer County MVP For Mock Trial

In January at the Mercer County Courthouse, Amara Leonard ’15 was named the MVP of the Mercer County Mock Trial Finals. Mock Trial is a competition that consists of students reproducing a hearing by acting as attorneys and witnesses on both sides of a case. PHS’s team of four attorneys and six witnesses had been preparing for the competition since September, when the case was released. The team defeated opponents from Notre Dame High School, Stuart Country Day School, and the Peddie School—and although the PHS team lost to the Lawrenceville School in the final, Leonard was still able to take home the MVP title. “It is unprecedented that the lead attorney would win MVP on the losing side,” she said.

In Mock Trial, the MVP award is given to the best overall participant, which can be either an attorney or a witness. “It includes best speaker, best teammate, best prepared, [and] best presentation of their role and their side of the case,” Leonard said.

John Baxter, the club advisor, agreed that Leonard’s performance was superb. “Her ability to handle cross arguments and create a closing argument demonstrated … how fabulous her performance was,” Baxter said.

After being involved in Mock Trial for three years, Leonard wants to continue participating in similar programs in the future. “I definitely want to stay involved in what Mock Trial means to me—which is activities involving law.”

Learning Commons upgrades to new research database

Upgraded research tools and new databases have revamped student resources for research at PHS. The new EBSCO Discovery Service does not replace previous research databases, but instead consolidates them to make searching for information a simpler process, according to Media Specialist Jennifer Bigioni. “What ends up happening [with the EBSCO Discovery Service] is that one search is searching all of those other resources that you used to individually have to search,” she said.

The new service simultaneously searches the school’s entire collection of databases such as JSTOR, Gale, and Salem, which contain a variety of documents, including primary sources, e-books, and academic journals. Before, this feature was unavailable and searches were limited to one database and therefore yielded more limited results. “We … noticed that all of these excellent resources that we’ve had that’ve pretty much been hidden are all getting used now [as a result of the EBSCO Discovery service],” Bigioni said. “They’ve gone from having hundreds of searches to tens of thousands of searches, so [the update] is being taken advantage of.”

Model UN team awarded best small delegation at CMUNCE for seventh consecutive year 

The Model UN team PHS was awarded best small delegation at CMUNCE. photo: Nathan Drezner

PHS MUN Officers Harrison Bronfeld ’15, Nikhita Salgame ’16, Emily Kinney ’15, Talya Shatzky ’15, Grace Wampold ’17, and Ben Donnelly- Fine ’16 hold the flag of the United Nations at a recent meeting. photo: Nathan Drezner

At this year’s Columbia Model United Nations Conference and Exposition, PHS’s Model United Nations team took home the Best Small Delegation prize for the seventh year in a row. MUN is a competition where students simulate the United Nations by representing various countries and individuals compromising to solve world problems and crises.

While most high school Model UN conferences consist of both General Assemblies and Crisis Committees, CMUNCE is different. “CMUNCE is an all crisis-based conference so all committees are exciting and fast paced,” said MUN officer Talya Shatzky ’15.

CMUNCE’s location is also appealing to the PHS delegates. “Our hotel is in the middle of Times Square, which is very exciting and allows us a lot of independence,” Shatzky said.

A group of 12 select delegates was sent to the conference to represent PHS. In addition to being awarded the best small delegation, nine PHS students also received individual awards including Best Delegate, Outstanding Delegate, Honorable Mention, and Verbal Commendation. “The evolution of the delegation is not a change in the abilities of the students, but what it has done to the club: [it] created a tradition of excellence and a desire for the club leaders to foster that excellence in new delegates,” said Club Advisor John Baxter.

Pragya Malik and Sinan Ozbay nationally ranked for debate

From October to January, Pragya Malik ’15 and Sinan Ozbay ’15 were chosen as the top-ranked Public Forum Debate pair in the country by the National Rankings for High School Speech and Debate. A team’s ranking is based on points accumulated at national tournaments, which often require teams to travel to reach them—local high school tournaments often do not have impact on national rankings. Since then, a team from Stuyvesant High School has surpassed them by a few points. However, the pair still sits in the second-place position, four points behind the first-place pair. In addition, these top two teams are more than 250 points ahead of the third-place team.

Although their ranking was topped in early February, the two seniors are still grateful for holding the title for several months. “[The ranking points are updated] after every tournament, and Sinan and I have been really lucky to maintain that ranking [for so long],” Malik said.

Although the regular debate season has ended, Malik and Ozbay hope to regain their title in postseason tournaments with national rankings. “[There are three] tournaments with national rankings: the Tournament of Champions, NCFL Grand Nationals, and NDCA National Championships … [They are in] April, May, and June, respectively,” said Ozbay. “We’re going to work really hard to do well in the postseason.”

After working together for two years, Malik and Ozbay have developed a strategy that has helped them consistently succeed at local and national tournaments. Malik said, “It’s … the intellectual understanding and changing [of] our approach to how we want to structure arguments and structure our rounds that has helped us the most this year.”

Malik said that participating and excelling in debate has been a worthwhile experience for her. “I think debate in general has a lot of valuable life skills: [thought process], analysis, synthesis, and then presentation skills that help you in any field you are going into, even if you are not specifically doing a debate activity in college.”

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