Deer Lakes

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Deer Lakes middle school students excel in mock trial at La Roche College

The team of Tira Waksmonski, Benny Manchini, Nick Braun, Bryce Robson, Michael Butler, Jessica Sullivan and Madison Friess recently won their case as the plaintiffs in a mock trial competition at La Roche College.

Manchini and Kathryn Strang were also singled out as two of top lawyers in the competition and Robson and Julia Resciniti were recognized as top witnesses.

The case the students were arguing was The Estate of Simone Langston v. Dr. Lefu Harrison and was based on the non-fiction book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”  The novel, and the case for which it became famous, is the story of Henrietta Lacks, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the 1950s, and whose cancer cells (later known as HeLa) would change the course of cancer treatment internationally.  That, in turn, would spawn a multi-billion dollar industry in the process.  Decades later, her family would learn that the cells were taken without Lacks’s knowledge or permission and the legal dispute that ensued centered around who owns the rights to those cells? 

Each team was mentored by a practicing attorney and Deer Lakes’ legal mentor was Mrs. Christina Lane-Loper, who lives in West Deer and whose children attend Deer Lakes schools.  According to Ms. Tammy Mickle, who along with Ms. Tammy McQueen, served as Deer Lakes’ faculty liaisons, said Mrs. Loper’s input was of invaluable importance to the Deer Lakes students.

“Christina was amazingly generous with our students with both her time and her expertise and it really benefitted them as they were as well prepared as any team in the competition,” said Mickle.  “This was a remarkable experience for our students all the way around and a huge part of that came in the form of the preparation they were given ahead of the competition by such a talented and skilled professional.”

The other middle school students to participate in today’s competition included Anna Bokulich, Ashley Palmer, Manow Jaithiang, Leif DeForce-Petersen and Carly Gornick.

The competition, which was sponsored by the Young Lawyers Division of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Northern Area Gifted Consortium, featured teams from Deer Lakes as well as Avonworth, Chartiers Valley, Fox Chapel, Hampton, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine Richland and Shaler Area school districts.

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