Local Pensacola resident Grace Stanley travelled to New York and Boston November 9 – 13, 2016, to experience the world of a Harvard-trained lawyer. Stanley participated in the Angela P. Mathew High School Seminar Program, sponsored by the Harvard Mock-Trial Association. The event provided invaluable training in speech and debate to 14-18 year-old youth. Classes were presented by Harvard students. Although the training was rigorous, the trip wasn’t all business. Attendees toured Harvard and Yale University tours and got to know the 17 teams in attendance at an energetic ice cream social that morphed into a dance party.
Stanley was selected for the Rusty and River Fields Foundation team after they viewed her riveting 2016 History Fair presentation as the fictitious lawyer of Mrs. Henrietta Lacks, a poor tobacco farmer whose cancer-metastasized cells became immortal. Her cells, removed from her body in 1951, remain alive to this day. A trillion-dollar human genome industry was built on her cells, but the Lacks family never received a single dime. Oprah is currently filming Lacks’ story.
“I couldn’t help but think of Grace when I found out about this event,” said Michelle Fields, Chief Designer and CEO of Michelle, New York. Fields homeschools sons Rusty (age 17) and River (age 15), exceptional young men with altruistic hearts. After attending a mock-trial at Harvard this summer, the boys wanted to share the opportunity with others, but they didn’t expect a team of 40 teens, most from the inner-city of Bedford Stuy in New York City! “We hoped they would gain as much as we did,” said Rusty. Grace exclaimed, “This was the chance of a lifetime! I learned so much! I can’t thank them enough for doing this for us!”
Attendees were given tours of Harvard and Yale, both ivy-league universities, to encourage future attendance and expand their awareness of college options. Each day, the participants received lectures about topics such as closing arguments, objections, opening statements, cross examinations and direct arguments. The primary focus of the training was to learn the art of debate via the realistic “mock-trial” experience. Participants weren’t necessarily interested in becoming lawyers.
Each “mock-attorney” was given a specific role in the first-degree murder case, and every team was given a court case, six witnesses to question and a packet of evidence. Grace provided closing arguments. “I liked being the closer because I could hear everyone else’s arguments prior to mine and incorporate their comments into my message,” said Stanley, would rather be an attorney or a witness nest year.
Unfortunately, the Rusty and River Fields Foundation did not receive the pledges promised, leaving the organization with a significant financial burden. Expenses for each child totaled $400, which included lodging and travel from New York to Boston. Donations on behalf of our local shining star are welcomed and encouraged at bit.ly/gofundmeharvard.
Grace plans on becoming an obstetrician when she grows up, but hopes to participate in this event every year, and encourages other youth to look for similar opportunities. “It is a lot of work, but worth it. Being an effective communicator is important in any field,” said Grace.
Grace has spoken extensively with her mother, Dr. Eurydice Stanley, an international motivational speaker, and as the CEO of her own company, Missing Petals. Her organization warns youth about the dangers of human trafficking, a message she shared with student coordinators at Harvard. They were impressed with her passion at such a young age.
Like her peers, Grace’s experience with debate was new, and incredibly invaluable. “This was just like ‘The Great Debaters,’” said Stanley, referencing the 2007 movie starring Denzel Washington. “The better I am at presenting my arguments in life, the more likely I am to win!” Indeed, the future is bright for this young scholar, as well as for her brother, Christian, who anxiously watched Rusty, River and his Grace from the wings, ready to follow in their footsteps!