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Porter student back after Stanford symposium

July 24, 2017 GMT

Jillian Alexis Garza returned to Brownsville a changed person after spending the 10 days after the Fourth of July at an Envision Intensive Law & Trial symposium at Stanford University.

An incoming sophomore at PorterEarlyCollegeHigh School, Jillian already had a pretty good idea she wanted to be an attorney. She is in the law pathway at Porter and spent time before the seminar shadowing Brownsville attorney Ruben Herrera.

She also was part of a fledgling effort last year to get a mock trial group going at Porter. Many of the students at the symposium recently had taken part in the National High School Mock Trial Championship, and the event was geared to the mock trial process. Attorneys often use mock trials to practice for real trials, with volunteers playing the roles of the various players in a case.

In a sense, the seminar was a crash course on mock trials and how to be an attorney, she said. She admitted to a bit of nervousness at first that she “wouldn’t hold up to everyone else,” but said she was surprised when she did.

About 180 high school students from all over the United States participated in the event, which featured lectures given by distinguished Stanford law professors and culminated in the students arguing a mock trial case at the San Francisco Superior Court in San Francisco.

The students were divided into groups of about 14. Jillian received her role when she sat in front during a lecture by Professor Norman Spaulding about legal ethics and why attorney-client privilege mattered. Jillian played a witness.

“I’m definitely more confident in my knowledge of the law,” she said of the experience. “I’m looking forward to mock trial this year.”

Jillian’s parents, Longoria Elementary School Principal Myrta Garza and Porter Head Basketball Coach Luis Garza, traveled to San Francisco for the mock trial. Myrta Garza said she is fine with Jillian going into law even though she comes from a long line of educators that includes her mother, Rachel Ayala, the former StellMiddle School principal.

“She also comes from a long line of strong, assertive women,” she said, adding that the symposium was very good about involving parents, encouraging them to “post pictures and tag your kids.”

Jillian is already looking ahead to law school. She plans to do her undergraduate work in Texas but now will definitely apply to Stanford for law school, along with Columbia and Howard universities.

“In our community, it’s still not acceptable to send our daughters far away to school,” Myrta Garza said. “I’m glad my husband was all for” the Stanford symposium as well as the idea of a far-away school for Jillian.

Jillian said her group voted her the most changed by the experience. Now she’s part of a chat group that includes members from Dallas, Colorado, Massachusetts and California, many of them from wealthy families.

When school starts again in the fall, she hopes to get more kids involved in mock trial. She said the advisor for the club, Abraham Alaniz, is very good at connecting with kids, and she hopes a team from Porter can advance to district and regional competition.