Saturday, April 5, 2014
Special Needs Student Finds His Niche On Faith Lutheran Mock Trial Team
By Jan Hogan
Summerlin Area View News
View Staff Writer
Faith Lutheran High School’s Luke Kecman, 18, is known for being artistic with a fascination for video games and a knack for mimicking character voices. He also is a special needs student who plans to graduate this spring with an adjusted diploma for meeting his individualized goals.
“Kids with autism tend to have a focus interest, and his is video games,” said Lee Segalla, a special education teacher at Faith Lutheran, 2015 S. Hualapai Way. “He reads magazines about video games, he can tell you the date of the release of various games, and his favorite things to draw are characters from video games.”
Kecman is on the school’s all-boys mock trial team, where two students mentor him. When that team made it to the state competition last month, the other members insisted Kecman go with them.
Their insistence made an impact on Segalla.
“These boys really jumped on it,” she said. “They were like, ‘We have this plan, and he can be a witness.’ And they really, really worked with him. One of the mentors was in here afternoons, rehearsing with him … these are high school boys. There’s a perception that high school boys couldn’t be interested in (helping) someone else … but these kids really did. They took a chance on him and helped him be successful.”
Kecman said he joined the mock trial team because it seemed it would be fun and would be “like it is in real life.”
He said he put himself into “actor” mode for the mock trial.
“It’s very easy for me,” he said. “I know how to act natural, and I do good voice impressions. It’s a natural talent for me.”
Faith’s fictional trial was about a prom party at Lake Las Vegas that ended with a student dying from being run over by a boat. Kecman was given the part of a witness and studied his part diligently, a natural extension of his love for video games. When he took the stand, he was an expert at his part.
“At one point, he was going crazy with it, and the judges didn’t know he was special needs, so the judge thought he was screwing around,” said Tristan Tomburo, 18. “But then we told them, and they were like, ‘Oh, now we understand.’ And then they thought it was awesome.”
The students said the team didn’t declare Kecman as special needs beforehand because they wanted to stand on their own merits.
“And other students had no idea, so it was nice that they didn’t treat him differently,” Tomburo said.
Why the decision to include a wild card such as Kecman for something as important as the state championships, where they had only one chance?
“We wanted him on our team,” said Cole Cunningham, 17. “He was there from the beginning. We didn’t get (to state) without him. Luke brings a unique aspect to the team. Without him, we really wouldn’t have stood out so much. He really had a positive impact.”
Hunter Dickerson, 17, said that through the school year, as they had mock trials, Kecman was seen as an indispensable member, always happy and dedicated to the goal.
“He’s one of our best witnesses; he’s extremely good in the role we put him in,” Dickerson said. “I admire his courage because it takes a lot for me to get up there in front of all these people. But I knew he was extremely smart and had a very good memory.”
Memorizing the script went only so far. The unknown was what the other team would ask of Kecman. So another team member, Nikos Povilaitis, 17, coached Kecman to ensure that he didn’t get bullied.
“As a witness, you don’t want to give ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers,” Dickerson said. “You want a lot of gray area. You want to eat up their time.”
If Kecman was being backed into a corner by the other team’s cross examination, Povilaitis interrupted with an objection of “badgering the witness.” If that tactic was used, Kecman knew to stop talking and think hard before he said anything more.
Faculty adviser Jocelyne Uy said having Kecman on the team had an impact on the other members.
“When we had Luke on the team originally, we thought it would be as an honorary member,” she said. “But it was the students who said they wanted him as a full member. It was pretty awesome to see the kids (step forward). They learned a lot of different skills having Luke on the team, meeting his needs and being respectful and responsible.”
Besides his ability to absorb the script, Kecman is focused and dedicated, Uy said, and easy to work with.
Kecman said he had confidence that the team would make it to the state competition.
“State was different because it started early and didn’t get through until about 4,” Kecman said. “I’ve learned to get through stuff that takes a long (time), and I’ve learned to have patience.”
The state competition was held at the Regional Justice Center to make it seem more real.
Kecman said he wasn’t nervous because he knew how to conquer his fears.
“It felt great (to play a witness),” he said. “It was like being in a (real) courtroom. … It felt great to be part of the team, kind of like working on a school project.”
Faith Lutheran took second place, with first place going to Bishop Gorman High School.
Also on the team are Cameron Sepede, 18; Dakota Greenawalt, 18, and Sean Kay, 18.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.
Photo Caption: Luke Kecman, left, shakes hands with a mock trial judge March 8 at the Regional Justice Center after helping his Faith Lutheran team to a second-place finish. Kecman, 18 and a special needs student, played a witness in a fictional case involving a school prom celebration gone wrong. (Sue Kay/Special to View)