Grade school students from the Peoria area put on a mock trial today at the Romain Arts & Culture Community Center in Peoria to understand the basics steps of the judicial process.
The "Order in the Court" program was started by Chris McCall in August, teaching students each weekend about different aspects of presenting a case.
And today students took the reins, giving opening and closing statements and even questioning witnesses.
"As of last week when we were training them, they began to argue, they began to talk about why they're gonna win and why their client is right just like real lawyers so I'm happy with that," said McCall, who has been practicing law in Peoria for 17 years.
The students were counseled by real lawyers and argued in front of a real judge. Retired Peoria county circuit judge Michael Brandt and assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Legge handled the gavel, creating teaching moments as they went along.
Witnesses were played by actors from the Peoria Players and Corn Stock Theater.
"I just want to pay it forward, get involved with the community," McCall said. "And so we wanted to do something unique here with actors and that way the community can get involved and support it."
Victoria Chatfield was part of the defense team. At 13, she says she's wanted to be a lawyer for a while. The program only fueled her passion.
"I just hope this gets out to a lot of kids so they can learn because it was very helpful to me and I'm sure it was helpful to everyone else in this class," Chatfield, a seventh-grader at Farmington Junior High School, said.
She says the best advice she got was about life, not just her career path.
"Chase your dreams, like seriously, if you want to go out and be big, go out and be big," she said.
McCall said he plans to run the program again, but with high school students.