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USF to host mock trial, immersion experience for high school students interested in law school

The University of South Florida is offering a new summer program – a criminology-immersion experience capped by a mock trial – to help high school students explore careers in law and criminal justice.

The virtual four-week program, “Full Court: Intro to Law, Crime and Trials,” will teach students about the legal system, the role of judges, attorneys, expert witnesses and law enforcement and how to get accepted into law school.

The program runs from July 12 to Aug. 6. Registration is now open. Visit to register and learn more.

Scholarship opportunities are available to defray costs. Applicants will receive a confirmation email with a link to apply for a scholarship.

fawn ngo

Fawn Ngo, associate professor

“This program is designed to help students broaden their knowledge base and explore college and career options while making new friends and having fun,” said Fawn Ngo, associate professor of criminology at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. “The program is especially beneficial to first-generation and minority students who do not know anyone in the legal profession because it provides them with the opportunity to find mentors.”

The university’s criminology department is working with the Judy Genshaft Honors College, Stetson University College of Law and local attorneys to create the immersion experience and mock trial. The program will be held virtually due to COVID-19. 

Students will learn about the legal system and criminal behavior – why people commit crimes – and have an opportunity to ask attorneys and students enrolled at Stetson about law school and the legal profession.

They’ll also engage in a roundtable discussion to explore strategies to get accepted into law school, which can be highly competitive, and hear from current and former USF students, including members of a USF debate team.

During the program’s final week, students will participate in a mock trial, the program’s highlight.

Dividing into teams, students will take on the roles of defendant, defense attorney, prosecuting attorney and expert witness, among others, as they “prepare for trial.” The teams will comb through evidence, examine witness statements, interview witnesses and formulate arguments as the trial date approaches on the final day of class.

“One of the special aspects of this program is the multi-level mentoring opportunities that are available,” said Cayla Lanier, campus director of the honors college at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus. “Participants will connect with and learn from their peers, as well as current college students, law school students and practicing attorneys, not to mention university faculty. Those who choose to enroll at USF after high school will already have strong connections to the campus from day one.”

Immersion experiences and mock trials are gaining popularity as colleges and universities seek to address students’ questions about law school, the legal profession and careers in criminal justice.

Ngo said her daughter came away from a session two years ago impressed by how much she learned about law and the strategies for entering law school. In addition, immersion experiences can help students assess careers and learn whether the legal profession is right for them.

“Most students tend to have a one-dimensional view of the law,” Ngo said. “I hope that by the end of the program, they leave understanding the options available to them in the legal field.” 

The priority application deadline is March 15, and the final day to register is May 3. Visit

To learn more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, visit

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