Behind the unassuming looks of sophomore Blake Simmons stands a man devoted to his craft and embedded in a state of thoughtfulness and care. With every answer he gives and every statement he makes, he thinks of how his actions could benefit not only himself but others around him.
Simmons, the founder and director of an undergraduate mock trial team, is currently working on making the program an official student organization. His idea to form the team came late last year after hearing there was no undergraduate team for competitive imitation trials at Belmont.
“I tried to find if there was an undergraduate mock trial program, and so I asked around. When I found out there wasn’t one, I thought it would be a great idea to actually start one,” said Simmons.
Because the group is not officially a student organization, securing funding to keep the program afloat and to compete is a struggle for Simmons and his team.
“We get funding from different departments. Right now we have six members, and the reason why is you can only send so many before you have to start paying more money for registration fees,” said Simmons.
Because registration fees are not covered by the school and instead are covered by whatever money Simmons can secure from the departments sponsoring the team, the monetary security of the program keeps Simmons busy.
“It’s very difficult to go to deans and heads of departments and things like that and say, ‘I’m a sophomore philosophy major, give me hundreds of dollars so I can make this program,’” said Simmons. “It took me months and months of begging and pleading and meetings after meetings before I could finally find someone, Mitch McCoy, who was willing to advocate on my behalf and say that this was a program that was actually needed.”
This struggle, though difficult, is worth it for Simmons, as mock trial has been an important part of his life. Originally planning on going to the United States Naval Academy, Simmons changed directions when he joined mock trial his senior year of high school.
“It completely changed my life, completely changed what I wanted to do,” said Simmons. “So, I decided to come to Belmont, major in philosophy and follow the law route. For me, personally, mock trial was a great way of actually knowing what I wanted to do, and if I never had that exposure, I wouldn’t have had that.”
Now, Simmons wants to involve others in the same life change he encountered. For Simmons, mock trial is not just something to add to his resume or something to use as a prerequisite to get his law degree. It is a program he believes everyone can benefit from.
“There’s so much it comes to offer. The No. 1 thing I would say is that even if you’re not interested in law, do it. The amount of skill sets that it provides you with is unmatched. It does a lot of training for cognitive abilities,” Simmons said. “It trains you to know how to persuasively speak in front of an audience. These are skill sets that you’ll need anywhere you go in life.”
This article was written by Kelby Bibler.