Profile: Mori Ono is making quite an opening statement at Community High School

When Mori Ono is done debating and learning and volunteering and getting the most of his high school experience, he wants to go exploring. As Capt. Kirk would say, “to boldly go where no one has gone before” – or something like that.

“In college, I plan to major in aerospace engineering,” says Ono, a junior at Community High School. “There’s an incredible amount of secrets out there in the universe, and aerospace engineering allows us to find them. With so many resources in the solar system alone, we can help eliminate scarcity within humanity and expand its presence in a peaceful way. A future where humanity has settled space is one that I look forward to contributing to, even if it’s not a future in my own lifetime.”

Ono, the son of Akiko & Akira Ono, also has plenty of goals, dreams and ambitions right here in this universe. He is clearly enjoying his time in high school, especially at Community.

“The beginning was a little difficult, considering that I did not know very many people at the school,” he says. “In a lot of ways, Community is defined by how well you use the opportunities it has. There aren’t any AP/AC classes, but through the CR department, I was able to take general chemistry at the University of Michigan, for example. I was also able to create a CR class with the aerospace engineering professor whose lab I volunteered in over the summer. In these ways, it has allowed me to find my own path in science and math.”

It sounds like Ono and Capt. Kirk have a lot in common. Kirk, famously, was the only cadet in Starfleet history to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru — by reprogramming the simulation so that it was possible to win. Ono, much to his credit, created a class that didn’t exist to help further his education and learning experience. And that’s both “logical” and “fascinating.”

Ono, 16, is a member of the Community High mock trial team that recently took first AND second place at the Washtenaw County Regional of the Michigan High School Mock Trial Tournament (MHSMTT) on Feb. 22. The event was held at the Washtenaw County Trial Courthouse in Ann Arbor. The two Community teams have qualified for the MHSMTT State Tournament on March 22.

Ono, who has a 4.0 GPA, said he first heard about CHS’ Mock Trial team when his sister went to CHS.

“She was not on the team, but I heard it being mentioned from time to time, and I was interested in the idea of a competitive debate-like team,” Ono said.

As a freshman, he joined the Mock Trial team as an alternate, which is not a part of the actual team itself, but playing more of a supportive role. As a sophomore, the team had a large influx of members, so he became a co-captain and lawyer for the only C-team to date.

Each Mock Trial team is capped at 10 members, so Community generally has two teams to accommodate the number of people in the overall program. Some of the team members participated in the Empire Mock Trial tournament in New York.

“This was the first time in several years that we assembled a team for this competition in particular,” Ono says. “Empire has a more comprehensive and complex case than the Michigan Mock Trial, but we still finished 12th out of the 40 teams. This year, I’m the B-team co-captain, and I am a lawyer and a witness.”

Ono says he enjoys the chance to analyze the case materials and figure out, “what’s the most important detail that we need to show the judge or jury?”

“As a lawyer, you then prepare a line of questioning for a witness on your own side and the other side,” he says. “However, for me, my bread and butter is opening statements and closing arguments. You get to discuss the big picture and speak directly to the judge/jury. Uninterrupted for 5 minutes, you get to deliver a dramatic speech that persuades them to your side.

“As a witness, you have to be able to respond to questions to benefit your own team’s case the most. When you’re a witness, you also get the chance to develop a character that really enhances your team’s preparation.”

Community High takes first and second place at Regional Mock Trial Tournament

In the Washtenaw County Regional, there were more than a dozen teams competing, and essentially every team has three trials, each lasting approximately 2 hours. Victory involves how many of the judges vote that your team presented their case the most, and how they score each element of the trial.

“The competition is a balance between being prepared to deliver what you’ve prepared for and constant innovation in reaction to all the surprises and actions happening throughout the trial,” Ono says. “As a lawyer, you have to be prepared to handle objections and the other team’s line of questioning. In objections, where you need to have a deep understanding of the Federal Rules of Evidence and a sharp mind.”

Ono says it’s a combination of “thrilling” and “nerve-wracking.”

“When the other team’s line of questioning is over, you often have to do damage control to take back the narrative or further your own point,” he says. “As a witness, you have to be ready yourself for cross-examination, which is when the opposing counsel asks you questions (generally to undermine your credibility and bring out details that support their own case). There’s always a few things that your witness has written that can be attacked, and having a confident response to that is key.”

Ono said he was surprised Community took first place and second – it’s a pretty amazing accomplishment considering the talent on the other side of the room.

“A-team advancing is not a surprise (more the norm not the exception), but B-team also advancing was,” he said. “I think when we (B-team) had won, I was in a state of unending, utter shock for a few minutes. The B-team hadn’t advanced to states in five years, so it was a surprise to see that we did.

But both teams prepared extensively, meeting 3-4 times a week for the past two months or so. Both teams also held meetings outside of our regularly-scheduled meetings as well. I think throughout, each member consistently improved their abilities, and by the day of the trial, we were more than ready to take on many of the teams. Everyone was fully memorized and well-prepared to adapt to the situation.

Ono is the founder and president of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) at CHS; co-president of Genes in Diseases and Symptoms (GIDAS) at CHS; a copy editor and feature editor for the award-winning The Communicator Magazine/Online Staff ; and was a member of the FIRST Robotics Competition 5708 Zebrotics Engineering Subteam last year.

In the big picture – like out there in the universe – Ono believes that this experience on the Mock Trial team has “pushed me to be more prepared when stating my thoughts regardless of the intensity of the situation, and that gives me the level of confidence needed to communicate persuasively to an audience.

“Also, the leadership experience I gain here can be applied in any kind of career or dream I pursue.”

Group picture by Chloe Root. Individual photo by Akiko Ono