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All-Female Team Wins Moot Court Competition

May 11, 2009 — The all-female team from Charlotte Amalie High School didn't let the butterflies in their stomachs get the best of them when they stepped up to the podium during this year's Moot Court competition.
Dressed in matching navy blue and yellow outfits, they instead were a unified force in V.I. Superior Court on St. Thomas, hitting the judges with a string of cohesive arguments that earned them first place in the battle against seven other local schools.
The all-male team from Antilles School took second place in the competition, while Kean came in third.
"We cried at the end of the first day — tears of joy as we realized that we worked so hard and made it so far by faith," said Estelle Williams, a senior at CAHS. "We prayed some more and hoped for favor from God to give us strength to make it into the next round. When we did, we prayed and prepared and prayed some more. In both rounds, we argued until the end of the day, coming in with our matching suits and hairstyles as women of power, determined to live up to our CAHS motto and 'excel always.'"
Facing off against CAHS this year were teams from Antilles School, All Saints Cathedral School, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, Free Will Baptist Christian School, St. Croix Educational Complex, St. Croix Seventh Day Adventist School and St. Joseph's High School. Each team had a coach and two local attorneys on their side to help them research and put together their arguments. V.I. Superior Court judges Michael C. Dunston, Julio Brady and James S. Carroll III presided over the two-day competition, scoring the teams' knowledge of the law, organization, courtroom demeanor and creativity, among other things.
This year's topic centered on a student's right to free speech and how it can be used. Teams also debated the constitutionality of a new student conduct code.
For the CAHS team, practice was a key component of the Moot Court process.
"A lot of times it was difficult getting study time in, and balancing Moot Court with school as well as other extracurricular activities wasn't the easiest thing to do," said Delreese Gifft, a senior class officer. "We would practice two times a week, and as the competition grew nearer, the schedule time increased to every day of the week — including over Carnival break. I think it was really great that we had attorneys that were willing to be there with us and encourage us, and the support system that we had throughout this experience really helped us a lot. We wouldn't have been able to do it on our own."
Anxiety hit during the first day when the team — which also includes CAHS seniors Kia-T'Nique Thomas and Ekeobong Utibe — found out they were last on the list.
"We were the last team to go, so the sense of anxiety lingered with me throughout the day," Gifft said. "I kept wondering how the other teams were doing, and if we would be able to compare and surpass them. We had trained so hard for this, and we really wanted to make our coach, Ms. Benjamin, and our attorneys, (David) Cattie and (Jesse) Gessin, proud of us. I can remember praying all the time — I actually think that was what helped us win. We put our trust in God to carry us through a seemingly tough time, and he did."
The team also supported one another and met continuously to streamline their arguments.
"It also helped when we began to think of our 'client' not as an imaginary person, but actually someone that we cared about," Gifft said. "I didn't think that we could have won when I first joined, but as our strength grew, so did our confidence. I'm just so proud and excited, and I can't believe this actually happened. This experience honestly was a dream come true."
For Williams, the competition was a stepping stone to a career in law.
"I auditioned for Moot Court at my school because I am an aspiring attorney, and Moot Court has truly whet my appetite to pursue law," she said. "While I will no longer be heading toward the Tunick Building, singing songs with my teammates as we prepare for a long, hard afternoon of practice, I will certainly treasure all the memories this experience has created for me. All attorneys must have passion, and I think that was our number one component. Passion — we certainly had a lot of it."
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