Duke law students, NM mock trial alumni frustrated over vetoed funding | KOB 4

Duke law students, NM mock trial alumni frustrated over vetoed funding

Joy Wang
March 19, 2018 05:54 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – $100,000 vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez would have gone towards funding New Mexico's high school mock trial program, and now alumni from an Albuquerque high school are voicing their disappointment.


Two law students at Duke say their mock trial experience at Volcano Vista High School pushed them to pursue their dream careers.

"My mock trial coach was amazing," said Marissa Cantu, one of those students currently studying at Duke. "He actually wrote my letter of recommendation for law school and he's kind of helped guide me through the process."

Cantu said she became a more confident critical thinker and even started coaching mock trial at Duke.

"I just see kids progress so much. I'm coaching the undergrad team, and it's amazing watching the kids come with their experience," she said. "(They start off) very shy, mellow, and then watching them progress throughout the year and learn how to speak up for themselves and really argue complex issues in front of people."

That's why it's frustrating to Cantu and fellow Duke law student Danie Whiteley to know other kids might not get the chance to find their passion like they did.

"It's been such an influential program in my life that it kind of set me on the path that I'm on now," Whiteley said. "I'm sad for the kids who won't have those opportunities in the future."

Whiteley went to UNM and coached at Volcano Vista while he was in New Mexico; now he's a third-year law student and also helps to coach the undergrad program at Duke.

"I'm going to clerk next year for a federal appellate judge, then after that I'm going to work in Washington D.C. in a law firm there," he said.

It's all because of his start with mock trial in New Mexico a few years ago – a program that is now in jeopardy of ending after 40 years.

"Mock trial is definitely what made me realize my interest in law," Whiteley said. "So that in that way is extremely influential in my life."




Joy Wang

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