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High schooler gains courtroom experience at Harvard

In mid-November, Peltier descendant Tyler Brassfield attended the Harvard Mock Trial High School Seminar Program in Massachusetts. Mock trial is one of his favorites of the many clubs and organizations he participates in at Ada High School in Oklahoma.

“It’s definitely not an easy task going in and arguing a side of a case and proving what exactly you’d like to do,” he said. “And it’s also the procedure. A courtroom is very formal, and learning how to navigate it is not the easiest thing.”

Tribal member Tyler Brassfield (bottom, far right) and his classmates explore the greater Boston area to practice their skills in the courtroom and see history.

One of less than 20 students from his school attending, Brassfield received a scholarship from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Department of Education to help with the registration and travel costs. His parents, in particular, appreciated the support.

“They were really, really excited that I had the opportunity to go there because they know I’m really passionate about mock trial and law,” Brassfield said. “So, I think they’re more excited almost than me that I get to go.”

He began mock trial as a freshman, which uncovered his niche in roles as both prosecutor and defense attorney.

“I’ve always had like an attraction to proving the rights out of a case, doing things like that, and thinking quickly on my feet in a courtroom,” Brassfield said.

He also enjoys environmental science, which he picked up last year while taking an Advanced Placement course on the subject. He now believes in the importance of studying and understanding the rampant changes in the earth’s atmosphere and ecology over the last 200 years. Brassfield plans to become an environmental lawyer.

“I am super passionate about protecting the environment and also learning how the environment changes and evolves over time,” he said. “But on the law side of it, I’d like to do my best to prevent the deterioration, obviously, of our planet and the climate changing. … I’d like to figure out how to live without purging on (animals’) environment and degrading their life.”

He hopes to complete his bachelor’s degree in environmental science at the University of Oklahoma and continue into law school. Part of mock trial’s appeal comes from presenting the facts in front of practicing attorneys and judges.

“They give us a lot of tips on how to actually prepare the case and build and make arguments,” Brassfield said. “So, I believe it has helped me get an extra step on where I would be by the time I got to college and law school.”

One of his main career goals revolves around using that practice to change others’ mindsets about their impact on the environment, including companies, organizations and individuals.

“I really just like finding out whether in proving my side, the defendant or whoever committed a crime, just making sure that they understand the consequences. … I want to try to make the most difference I can,” Brassfield said.

The trip included the chance to explore the East Coast and visit new places, such as Salem, Massachusetts, where the Salem Witch Trials took place — combining law and history.

“Getting to see historical sites that I’ve gotten to learn about over my high school career, like The Crucible, it’s really just like a cultural shock,” Brassfield said.

As part of the first mock trial class from Ada making the trip to Harvard, he thanks CPN for the opportunity to attend. For more information on the CPN Department of Education, visit cpn.news/education.