The six-month Mock Trial 2002 season wrapped up in early May when Massachusetts State Champions Needham High School headed to St. Paul, Minnesota for the National Mock Trial Competition.
Needham High competed against teams from 42 states, Guam and the Mariana Islands in trials that were based on a hypothetical lawsuit based on the famous shipwreck of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald.
Much like the Fitzgerald, Needham almost didn't get to its intended destination. The school's storm, however, was of a financial nature.
Early in Needham High's fund-raising efforts, it became clear the school was struggling to raise the funds needed to make the trip to the Nationals. The Massachusetts Bar Foundation (MBF) kept Needham's hopes afloat. From a pool established by the Boston firm Hutchins, Wheeler & Dittmar, MBF trustees approved a $2,500 grant to help defray the school's expenses.
"We could never have made this trip without the support of the MBA, the Foundation and Brown, Rudnick, Berlack & Israels," said Needham High teacher coach Bob Baker. "Needham High School, the entire Needham community and the Massachusetts Bar Association were always with us in thought and spirit as we competed."
Needham would need to draw upon that support as they found themselves face to face with the country's most accomplished Mock Trial teams.
"The entire event was a tremendous opportunity for our kids," said Baker. "The fierce competitions inside the court rooms, combined with the wide range of social events, made for an unforgettable experience."
Ultimately, Tennessee was declared the National Champion, but Baker and his team left St. Paul feeling extremely proud.
"They were flawless representatives of Needham and of the state of Massachusetts, always demonstrating great sportsmanship, respect and enthusiasm," said Baker. "I received many compliments from both adults and student teams, including those we defeated and those we bowed to, praising our students' ability to make others feel at ease."