One of the most interesting things about Ursuline’s Mock Trial team is its potential as a looking glass. The student-run club, which typically attracts 20-30 aspiring attorneys each year, reflects the inner workings of the judicial system where career opportunities are in full view. According to club moderator Mr. John Collins, "Many Mock Trial students are on the fence about pursuing a career in the legal field.”
Enter the Honorable Justice Elena Goldberg Velazquez ‘99, a proud Ursuline alum and current NYS Supreme Court Judge. Justice Velazquez was elected to the New York State Supreme Court in the 9th Judicial District (Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, and Dutchess Counties), and presently sits in Orange County.
On Monday, April 24, 2023, she met face-to-face with eager students interested in where their Mock Trial experience might lead. She knows firsthand how Ursuline shapes futures. “Ursuline taught me how to deal with adversity, work under pressure, and always believe in myself,” she explains.
During the robust, informal Q&A session, Justice Velazquez shared insights on varied topics ranging from the law school application process to the day-to-day life of a presiding court judge. Students around the room began to envision themselves as future judges and attorneys.
Junior Aoibhe Charles credits Mock Trial with preparing her to face barriers in the work environment as a young woman. “It has brought me outside of my comfort zone, increased my public speaking skills, and taught me how to approach and understand an argument from different perspectives.”
In recent years, the club seeks to provide an outlet for students to live out Ursuline’s mission and Core Values. Collins puts it simply, “Mock Trial embodies what the Ursuline community is all about, applying academic excellence to a service mindset.” As a Social Studies teacher, he sees how newly acquired skills can transcend from the courtroom to the classroom. “It's not only the embodiment of the Ursuline spirit, but also a chance for students to learn how to collaborate while developing communication, critical thinking, and advocacy skills.”
Ursuline’s Mock Trial team competes annually against teams from area schools at the Westchester County Courthouse. Justice Velazquez generously offered real-world insights to help students think and plan more strategically in upcoming competitions. The team and its moderator already look forward to next year.
Approachable, confident, and accomplished, Justice Velazquez is a shining example of compassionate, responsible leadership, the Ursuline way. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is her advice to all students. She speaks from the heart when she says, “Be true to yourself. Figure out what you truly want to do in life, then make a career out of it. You will wake up every day eager to go to work and make a difference in the world.” The Honorable Justice Elena Goldberg Velazquez ‘99 is case in point.
- Social Studies