Another competitive season has come to a close in the district, as Farragut High School’s Mock Trial team placed tenth at the state competition last month.
Samantha Garner, a senior and the Mock Trial captain, led the team to several state and district competitions during her time at FHS.
Her passion for Mock Trial began years ago when she was in 5th grade, and her brother participated with his high school team. Ever since she watched him compete, she has been looking forward to her chance to plead her case to the court.
Mock Trial is organized by the Tennessee Bar Association, which creates a unique case every year with different scenarios, witnesses, and experts. The team hosts auditions in November when the case is released to place its members into their roles.
“We take people who are interested in public speaking, law, acting, theater, forensics, and criminal justice. Just so many different people,” Garner said.
Garner, who is interested in becoming a lawyer in the future, was placed as the District Attorney and met with her team over the next few months to discuss the details of the case.
“It’s so cool because you get so close to your teammates over Mock Trial season. You get to work with your teammates over developing your character,” she said. “We get very passionate, so you’re like, should I cry on the stand? Or should I scream, ‘It was her!’ and point to her dramatically?”
Senior and FHS Team MVP Rani Patel joined the team last year to support her friend, Garner, in rebuilding their team.
She said she initially had no interest in law, but once she joined, “I absolutely fell in love with it. That’s actually one of the reasons that I want to go into law. Mock Trial has been an eye-opener for me.”
Farragut’s team is sponsored by teacher Christopher Hampton and is coached by two practicing lawyers, Wesley Eke and Jeff Arms. These lawyers teach the students the legalities of the courtroom and different necessary procedures and help them form their arguments for the competitions.
As the seniors prepare to pass their team on to the next group of Admirals, they know this season is not their last with Mock Trial, as they hope to one day return as coaches for a new generation of Mock Trial competitors.
The first cohort of The 865 Academies revealed their new career-themed Academies at a celebration hosted by Central High School on Thursday.
The 865 Academies initiative launched in the fall of 2022, and is designed to transform the high school experience in Knox County. The goal is for every KCS graduate to be prepared for enrolling in postsecondary studies; enlisting in service to their country; or finding employment in a high-wage, high-skill, and in-demand profession, with an entrepreneurial mindset.
By establishing career-themed academies, the initiative will create small learning communities within larger schools, allowing students to participate in career exploration activities and take a deep dive into areas of interest while also building strong connections with teachers and other students.
“We’ve got to prepare students, and school systems are uniquely positioned to do that,” said Superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk. “Our job is to have students prepared for when they graduate.”
The celebration was attended by community leaders and industry partners, including Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, who said 865Ready graduates will ultimately benefit Knox County and East Tennessee.
“This is just wonderful to see a really intentional, strategic effort to in some ways customize the student experience,” Jacobs said. “They get the tools and the skills that they need to excel in areas that they’re either naturally drawn to or things that they love.”
Gordon Heins, the president and chairman of the A.G. Heins Company, said industry partnerships positively impact both organizations and students. By working together, KCS students are provided valuable opportunities for work-based learning and career exploration.
“As an employer, we want students to come to us looking for good-paying jobs, and that they’re prepared, and they have the tools,” he said.
Central High School is in the first cohort of The 865 Academies, and Principal Dr. Andrew Brown said student performance in Algebra I has improved, while discipline referrals are down.”
Brown credited Freshman Seminar, a new class that focuses on helping 9th-graders identify interests, aptitudes and professional skills, adding that “we are already beginning to see great results out of that work.
CHS senior Justus Hayes was involved in the early stages of launching the Academies initiative, and is also an entrepreneur. He started his own business, Blended Clothing, and during the ceremony presented shirts to several local leaders.
“Entrepreneurship is a very important thing to me. I love creating, and bringing new apparel and things to our generation,” Hayes said. “It has been my honor to help build and show my support for something that will impact our current and future generations.”
Student Ambassadors from each school presented their new Academies alongside their principals. Below are the Academies for the first cohort.
Carter High School and South-Doyle High School will be joining The 865 Academies as the second cohort in the fall.
As district schools prepared for Winter Break this month, final exams and end-of-semester activities weren’t the only items on the calendar. Across Knox County, students, families and school employees took time to give — and receive — gestures of kindness in the holiday spirit.
At Austin-East Magnet High School, ELA teacher Skikila Smith — known to her students as “Ms. Sky” — has been coordinating an informal holiday shoe drive since joining the Roadrunner family as an intern in 2017.
Smith said that when she lost her children’s father at the age of 21, her family benefited from local Angel Tree programs that provided holiday gifts, and she is also grateful for all the people who supported her when she got her master’s degree at the age of 42.
The shoe drive is a way to give back and help students in need put their best foot forward, and Smith said A-E teachers help to identify potential recipients.
“It would not be possible without a teacher that is looking to cultivate the entire human, and uplift the entire family,” she added.
In some cases, the effort to assist families in need has been adjusted because of COVID-19. LeighAnna Colgrove, a Farragut High School parent, coordinates a Giving Tree program that supports families at four schools in that community.
Colgrove said that in the past, the program would provide a clothing gift bag to families and give them a chance to pick a donated toy. Because of COVID, organizers last year adjusted the campaign to a drive-up event in which gift cards were provided.
Colgrove said the feedback they received was positive, not only because of the additional privacy of the drive-up format but also because it allowed families to shop for their own Christmas gifts.
This year, she said, organizers did shop for a handful of families who had transportation or medical challenges, but gift cards were mostly provided. In addition, because donations exceeded expectations, they were also able to provide coats and shoes, while private donors provided school hoodies, a Walmart gift card and a food box.
“We were just overwhelmed by the generosity this year,” Colgrove said.
KCS students have also benefited from the generosity of outside organizations, including East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
Shelli Eberle, principal of Fort Sanders Educational Development Center, said Children’s does an annual Christmas tree drive at the school in honor of a former patient who passed away.
The drive has grown so significantly that this year, ETCH was able to provide 125 mini-trees – one for each student.
Eberle said students have enjoyed the chance to take home an individual tree, and that the drive has been a bright spot of the holiday season.
“Seeing the joy on each child’s face as they picked out their very own tree to take home was an important reminder to look for the magic of the holiday season,” she said. “We are so grateful to have ETCH as such an incredible Partner in Education.”
Recent Stories: Knox County Schools Hall Pass Blog