A 16-year-old Philadelphia high school student mentored by three Kline students won the National Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Moot Court Competition hosted by Suffolk Law School in Boston on March 26.
Badia Weeks, a senior at George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Sciences, was crowned champion of the national competition, in which 80 teens from around the country took part.
2Ls Leah Berney, Alexandra Bennett and Stefanie Friedman coached Weeks and other Carver students as mentors with the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, a program that teaches teens about the U.S legal system.
“She is extremely impressive,” said Berney, who joined classmates Joshua Benjamin, Alissa Kontanis and Steve Purcell in chaperoning five Philadelphia teens who advanced from the local contest to take part in the national competition.
Throughout the academic year, the law students have taught teens in Philadelphia high schools about the relevance of the constitution in their lives and the power of advocacy in courtrooms and beyond.
This year’s moot court competition focused on a hypothetical bullying case in which the First and Fourth Amendments came into play. Weeks successfully argued on behalf of a high school basketball player in the scenario who was expelled for allegedly goading classmates into bullying another student.
When the judges asked Weeks to speculate if her client faced bias, Berney said, her protegée replied – shrewdly – that she was merely offering facts.
“It was a mic drop moment,” Berney said.
Weeks was not the only Kline protégé who advanced in the nationals; Science Leadership Academy at Beeber student Kiersten Bond, who was mentored by Kline students Kylie Bookwalter and Taylor Gerchman, also reached the Semi-Finals.
Purcell, who graduated from high school in Philadelphia, said he is thrilled to mentor teens through the Marshall-Brennan program.
“When I was in high school, we didn’t really have a constitutional class,” Purcell said. “I would have loved having law students come in and teach us. It’s important to understand your rights as an American and as a student.”
Berney said teaching teens about the constitution is good preparation for practicing law.
“Lawyers have a tendency to be super wordy,” she said. “I want to do public interest work. Representing indigent clients, it’s going to be really important to make things easy to understand.”