Clarkie of the Week: Jordan Blocher

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Clarkie of the Week: Jordan Blocher

Image courtesy of Emily Abbott

Image courtesy of Emily Abbott

Image courtesy of Emily Abbott

Image courtesy of Emily Abbott

Claire McMahon, Scarlet Staff

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Jordan Blocher (‘21) is a philosophy major with a double-minor in history and political science. His passion for mock trial drives him to lead Clark’s team to victory year after year. He plans to graduate a semester early and attend law school in the fall of 2021. Jordan spoke to The Scarlet about the team and his experience volunteering for the Petey Greene Program.

 

Scarlet: Can you explain what mock trial is and why it is so important to you?

Jordan: Yeah, so at the beginning of every academic year, usually at the end of August, the American Mock Trial Association, which is the governing body for mock trial, releases a large case file of about 150 to 200 pages containing information about that year’s case. Inside this case file there are ten witness statements–or affidavits, as we call them–that tell the story of what our case is. So our job as a team is to take these case materials and these 10 people, and our prosecution needs to pick three of the ten witnesses that we’d like to use to build our case. And then students from our team portray those witnesses and lawyers, and we question these characters and we use them to build a case and tell a coherent story, and the other side would be doing the same thing.

So we’d go to a tournament, and a trial might be Clark University’s prosecution versus Colby College’s defense. We essentially just go to war against each other for three and a half hours, and we do our best to tell the story to a fictional jury. Our job is to communicate with them effectively in a way where we’re able to tell the story and explain why the person is either guilty or not guilty. Teams that perform exceedingly well would get to advance from the regional tournament to the opening round championship series, which is a subnational tournament. And from there, you could be one of the 48 teams that qualifies for the national championship tournament where they release a completely new case.

People are improving all the time, and every year, mock trial gets harder around the country. So the competition as a whole serves its purpose more and more every year. Because winning is nice, but the [main] goal is to establish skills that you can use in your career path later. I’m less concerned with winning than I am with making sure that the people on our team are getting something out of it. Because what does it mean to be the national champion if we were okay at mock trial and everyone else was bad. It wouldn’t mean much. Winning means so much more if the people you’re competing against are getting better along with you because it constantly forces you to be improving. So, I love it. It’s excellent.”

 

Scarlet: What does being a captain mean to you?

Jordan: When I was in high school mock trial was my main and primary thing. I did four years of mock trial, and for three of those four years, I was running my high school team. So what that meant was that I was training all of the new people–helping them learn how to do objections, how to question a witness, how to be a witness, all of these things that really make a team become alive. And so when I got to Clark, I was hoping that in some capacity I would be able to continue working in that role because of the experience that I had. And sure enough, freshman year, I was made the co-captain of the school’s A team… in that role, I wasn’t able to act in my favorite capacity, which is as a teacher, working with the people who are entering the program and helping them figure something out is really the most rewarding part of it. It’s one thing to go to a tournament and to be really good and win, it’s another thing to know that you’ve helped build something and that you’ve helped people acquire skills which they can use in real life, as well—analyzing facts, piecing together information from various sources to try to build a cohesive story, public speaking. These are the sorts of things that we’re working on.

So I was really hoping that moving forward, I’d be able to work with people who had just entered the program and were new, and a lot of them don’t have any mock trial experience, and it’s like a project, you get to start from scratch. I actually asked after my freshman year—for what would technically be called a demotion I suppose—to run the B team, instead of running the A team. Through this experience I was able to go back to what I loved doing, which is helping people start from scratch and helping them acquire the skills they wouldn’t necessarily have coming in. Along with Emily, who was my co-captain last year and who I love very dearly, I am now running the A team. 

So this year is a continuation of the building process that we have started last year for our new people because you simply can’t learn all that there is to know about this activity in a year. It is the most rewarding experience that I’ve had from my college career and also my high school career. There’s nothing that compares to the proud parent feeling of going into round and seeing the people you’ve been working with so closely for so long being so excellent, and just standing out and watching them really excel at this activity. And to feel like you had something to do with that is just an excellent feeling. I love mock trial, I love being a captain, I love working with people. It’s one of my favorite things.

 

Scarlet: How important was Clark’s mock trial team in your decision to attend the school?

Jordan: It was very important. When I was looking at different colleges, I was corresponding with different mock trial captains and coaches at different schools and asked them how their program worked and what that would look like. When I was looking at Clark, I noticed that there was a rare opportunity for me that I wouldn’t get anywhere else because I noticed that, when I looked at the Clark mock trial website and looked at the team members, almost everybody was graduating. It was a team that almost entirely consisted of seniors and a single junior, or two juniors, maybe. And I knew that if I went to Clark I’d have an opportunity to pick up where I left off with my high school team and where I could be in a leadership position very early on instead of going into a school where there’s 50 seniors who are competing in the mock trial program or those who wanted to compete in the mock trial program–you would just be another freshman. 

I was hoping that I could be something other than just another freshman because I wanted to pick up where I left off with what I had been doing in high school. So I knew that I would possibly have that opportunity, and I did end up having that opportunity, so it reinforced my decision, I mean, there are lots of reasons why I chose Clark–I love the atmosphere, I loved the accepted students days, and I knew that I would be able to compete in mock trial here because the program’s not very big and I learned that there was no tryout process. I couldn’t bear the thought that I would go to the school and not be able to compete on a mock trial team, which is an actual possible thing that could have happened had I gone to a school like Boston University, where they have 150 kids try out for the team, and they take six. So I would be miserable at a school where I couldn’t do mock trial, and I knew that I’d be able to do it here, and I knew that I’d possibly be able to do it in a leadership capacity, which was really important to me, so it was a huge factor in my decision-making process for school.

 

Scarlet: Do you feel that mock trial will help you achieve your goal of becoming a lawyer?

Jordan: [Being a lawyer has] been my dream for a very long time. You can never have too much experience being a leader and working with people because that’s really what it comes down to. Law is a profession that centers around people. I mean, most professions do, but you need to be able to connect with people on a real level, and you need to be able to connect with real, actual human beings because that’s who composes a jury, that’s who the judges are. So I feel like being a captain, specifically, has made me more prepared and better able to connect with people on a human level in a way that when I’m actually a litigator and talking to jurors in the future, I’ll hopefully have a better understanding of just the way that people behave and the way that they think and what things are important to them–what matters to real people. 

That’s one of the things that I feel I’ve gained from leadership positions. It was a learning process, trying to figure out how to run a team like that, especially when I was in high school, and also here. Sometimes you say things, and people are affected by it in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily think that they would be affected, but you have to take those things in stride because nobody is perfect; there’s no way to never upset anybody or to give everybody everything that they want, but when you put yourself in their position and see how they’re feeling and what’s making them feel that way, you learn something about human nature, and you learn something about the way people work in general, and those are applicable anywhere in real life. So I feel like those skills–in addition to the hard skills, like analysis and logic and reasoning and public speaking–those are all invaluable skills for being a lawyer and litigator. So the leadership side is very important to me, but then also the actual skills of competing, especially under pressure. Like, that seven-minute period of time could define the hundreds of hours of work of hours that you’ve been putting in over the course of the season, so being able to operate under high-pressure moments like that is another skill that mock trial inevitably instills in you that.

 

Scarlet: Why should people join?

Jordan: The goal is to establish skills that you can use in your career path later. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a businessperson or a teacher or a lawyer; the skills that you’re getting from mock trial can help you anywhere. Jurors aren’t always paying attention to us. Doing mock trial could be something that helps you be more engaging in the future. Or it could be something that makes you better at business pitches. Or it makes you a better litigator. The skills are applicable everywhere.

 

Scarlet: Would you say that you’re leaving a legacy at Clark with this team?

Jordan: Well, I hope so. I mean, the goal and the hope is always that once you’re gone, you’ve helped people establish the skills that they need to continue carrying on the team in a way that we can continue being a force and a power within the New England region and possibly at a national scale. So these years have been about laying a foundation. Because at the end of the day, the individual is only here for four years, and it has nothing to do with the individual–it’s not about that at all; it’s about building something sustainable for the program long term, where everybody in it feels like if one person leaves, so be it; we’ll pick up the slack. We have the talent, we have the skill, people know what they need to do in order to really excel at the competition. 

So my hope is that even once me and Emily are gone, as well as some of our other members who will be leaving in the next year or two, that that won’t make a lasting impact on the program because we’re laying a foundation for all of the new members every year. We hope they’ll be able to take the information that we’re giving them and then teach it to the new people that are coming, and then those people will take that information and teach it to the new people, so it will be sustainable long term. So I don’t know if I’ve left a legacy like that; you can never know for sure until the time has come and passed and you get to see what the results look like five or ten years down the road. But we really hope so, my co-captain and I.

 

Scarlet: Can you tell me about your experience participating in the Petey Greene Program?

Jordan: Freshman year, I had the opportunity to do something really meaningful. You know, mock trial is one thing, but at the end of the season, it’s over, and when you graduate from college, it’s done, so the question is what do you actually leave behind, and what are the other things that you can do to get involved in your community? Because obviously that’s something that’s very important to us Clarkies: participating in the actual Worcester community and figuring out how we can make a meaningful difference. 

So I joined the Petey Greene Program, where you get to go into prisons in the Massachusetts area, and you can work with currently incarcerated persons who are hoping to turn their life around, essentially. And the way that we work with them is in classrooms; through education. We can inspire people to do something more with their lives when they get out of prison. So for an entire semester, every week, I was going, and I was working in a classroom with currently incarcerated persons who were hoping to get their high school degrees, and I was tutoring them in math or reading or writing, or whatever it was they really needed, providing one-on-one help or group help, and that was a very important volunteer experience for me. 

You see the law on television, or you see legal dramas and stuff, and there’s all these courtroom actions, but then you don’t see what’s going on in the aftermath because when you talk about criminal law, you’re talking about someone’s freedom being taken away from them. What does that look like? How does that affect them? Are there ways that we can make it so people who are incarcerated don’t become incarcerated again when they get out. And that’s where the meaningful change is that we can make. It’s helping turn people’s lives around because it’s so easy to become lost in the system. So many of the people would talk to me about how at the time, they didn’t know what they would do when they got out because they knew that it would be so hard for them to get a job, they knew that their family would not take them back. It’s so difficult once you become part of the system to get out of the system. Especially when you don’t have a high school degree. It’s just very difficult in this country to do that. So the goal of this program is that we were able to help these people potentially set themselves on the right path when they got out so that they wouldn’t become lost in the system. And that is, I think, so important today, when mass incarceration rates are so high, and we have some of the highest in the world, so anything we can do to make a difference there is extremely important.