There’s a courtroom at Harlingen High School, a transformed classroom, where Mr. Rolando Izeta’s law enforcement students apply what they learn during class to mock trials.
“When I got hired by Harlingen, my ultimate dream was to build this courtroom for my students, so they could really see how things are done,” Izeta said. “From the business cards that are posted when you go to the Cameron County Courthouse to the furniture, I wanted to make it as authentic as possible.”
In November, district administrators were invited to serve as the jury of the mock trial the class was working on.
Following a script, students worked through a court scenario, practicing the procedures of a trial from beginning to end.
“I just want to say that this is extraordinarily impressive,” Board President Gerry Fleuriet said. “It wasn’t so much the winning or the losing as much as understanding what you were doing, and you all were just fabulous. I am really impressed that we are sending students out into the community going to college and to law school so well prepared.”
The mock trial offered students an authentic learning opportunity to experience and understand how a real trial works.
“I feel like I am in a real courtroom, and you were deciding my fate,” senior Hunter Durivage who played the defendant in the mock trial said to the administrators. “It’s been a long process. On the first day, it would take the whole class period to get through this script. Now, we are able to go through the full script with no pauses and few mistakes. We have all learned a great deal about the court system, from the roles to the court procedures. Thank you for being here, it really gives a real experience.”
Most students who took part in the mock trial held an interest in pursuing careers related to law enforcement.
“It’s all about communication,” Superintendent Dr. Alicia Noyola said. “Be the person who is willing to get up and speak because that is a skill set that will serve you well, not just in law but in any career that you choose. It gets easier the more that you do it, so step up and challenge yourself in those situations.”
Izeta hopes to continue to provide authentic learning experiences for his students. His class will have an opportunity to observe a real court proceeding soon, and he is beginning to prepare students for a mock trial competition next year.
“I am very proud of what they’ve done and how far we’ve come,” Izeta said.