Posted inEducation

Covenant Classical School students learn how to become confident through mock trial

Defense attorney Ellie Monwai listened closely to the prosecutor’s cross-examination of the witness. 

In the crowded courtroom, Monwai stood up from the defendant’s table. 

“Objection!” Monwai said in an assertive tone.

Monwai knows how to command respect without coming off as demanding and rude. She has a calm, confident demeanor. And it’s not because she’s a lawyer — the 18-year-old is on the Covenant Classical School’s mock trial team.

“Kindness, civility and good sportsmanship go a long way,” Monwai said. 

Monwai was one of 13 students on her school’s mock trial team who recently competed in the National High School Mock Trial Competition in Little Rock, Arkansas. The team placed sixth in the contest. 

In a mock trial, students simulate what happens in a courtroom. They take on either a criminal or civil case. Some are the prosecutors, others are the defense, and the remaining students act as the plaintiff and witnesses.

Students are scored based on how well they act in their roles and professionalism. Actual criminal and civil court judges and lawyers grade their performance. A winning argument and how students carry themselves are just two factors that determine students’ scores. 

The Covenant Classical mock trial team sets itself apart through politeness. 

“We’re not going to be mean, even if they’re completely wrong. They’re making themselves look worse. We’re just going to be polite,” Monwai said. “Our coaches stress that a lot.”

One of those coaches is Judge Josh Burgess of the 352nd District Court. He has coached Covenant Classical mock trial students for the past ten years. 

Burgess was hesitant to get involved. Ten years ago, he talked to students about the rules of evidence. Shortly after his visit, Burgess quickly changed his mind and volunteered to coach the team. 

“We just come to pour into these kids to help them get better,” Burgess said. “It’s really fun to watch them grow.” 

Burgess wishes more Tarrant County schools had mock trial teams because it helps students with soft life skills. Students are required to speak loudly and concisely in front of large groups of people, and that builds up their confidence, Burgess said.

Students also learn an important life lesson. 

“Very little of life is objective. It’s all subjective,” Burgess said. “What one judge likes, another judge doesn’t. The earlier they understand that, ‘Hey, guess what? Life isn’t fair.’ It’s just a healthy life lesson to learn.” 

Students have told Burgess how impactful and essential the mock trial team has been to them. Monwai is one of them. 

Monwai plans to use the confidence she gained while on Covenant Classical’s mock trial team to thrive at Biola University, a Christian school in California. 

“I want to impact the people around me, and the way you do that is not with all of the accomplishments and trophies you’ve won, but by how you’ve treated the people around you,” Monwai said. 

Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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