Cerita Bickelmann loves talking and arguing.
So Cerita, a junior at John Burroughs High School, decided to join
the school’s mock-trial team last year at the encouragement of a
friend. Since then, her participation in the program has become a
compulsion for her.
“It’s kind of a need for me at this point,” the 16-year-old said.
"[The team] has sparked my interest so much that I decided I need to
do this for the rest of my life.”
That passion was noticed last week when Cerita was named the
Outstanding Pretrial Lawyer for the 2003 Los Angles County Mock Trial
Competition, making her the first member to win an award in the local
team’s four-year history.
As a pretrial lawyer, Cerita’s role was to argue whether evidence
should be admitted for the mock trial. The case was about a student
arrested on suspicion of selling stolen goods on campus.
The experience, she said, has given her valuable hands-on
experience on how the legal system works from the U.S. Supreme Court
down to local courts.
“It has built my self-esteem and given me a buffer to be able to
handle what will be thrown at me when I go to law school,” she said.
Rick Piper, the Burroughs history and government teacher who
sponsors the mock-trial team, credits Cerita’s win to the one-two
punch of her talent.
“She’s a drama student and also a strong academic student,” Piper
said. “It’s the best combination -- a smart kid who is a bit of an
actor or actress.”
Cerita agreed, saying there are several similarities in every
stage, no matter what the venue.
"[Theater] has definitely taught me to enunciate, speak loudly and
get over the fear of critical audiences,” she said. “And they’re both
telling stories, so I can incorporate the two aspects together.”