As the big weekend approaches, things are getting busier and busier at the Empire office; but luckily our wonderful founder, Justin Matarrese, took the time to chat with us about Empire SF.
Are you excited for Empire SF?
Of course! In San Francisco we have the opportunity to provide the Empire experience to a whole new field of teams that have never been a part of an Empire tournament. We view this as a way to allow hundreds of students the chance to challenge themselves intellectually as well as to connect with other motivated peers locally and from across the globe. We are excited to welcome them all to the Empire family.
What features of Empire NY can we look out for in SF?
SF will still be a competitive tournament that pushes students in ways that go far beyond the traditional high school mock trial format. Local attorneys and judges will evaluate the students during the trial rounds, and the Honorable Saundra Brown Armstrong of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California will preside over the championship round.
The competition is a big part of Empire but like any other Empire tournament, our goal is to have students connect with other students from across the country and across the world. Just as in New York, we will have an Olympic-style Opening Ceremony with the Empire Exchange; a dinner cruise of the harbor; and an exciting awards ceremony to recognize the students’ achievements, followed by karaoke and a dance.
So how will Empire SF differ from Empire NY?
For SF, we tried to plan events that would showcase the city of San Francisco. We are hosting opening ceremonies at the historic City Hall, thanks to the help and generosity of Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell, the Senior Advisor on Education and Family Services and her assistant Florence Corteza. We’re also offering a tour of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court is literally closing down on Friday so we can tour this magnificent facility. We are excited that our students will be able to have these additional opportunities to learn about the courts and the historic sites in San Francisco.
How many schools are from out of state and out of country?
There will be schools from 8 states and 5 countries (Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, the UK, and the US). In fact, Hong Kong will become part of the Empire family for the very first time at this tournament!. The event also benefits the host state, as schools will be competing from 8 different California counties including Lowell High School from San Francisco.
Why was SF chosen as the second Empire location?
In 2013 I was lucky enough to intern at the SF District Attorney’s office. Living in the city for ten weeks and experiencing the SF culture was incredible. I knew it would be a fantastic city to showcase to young people, and I also knew California had one of the strongest mock trial programs in the country; so it was the perfect location for our expansion.
Why did Empire decide to debut Empire SF this year in particular?
From a business perspective, when you look at companies that attempt to expand before they’ve perfected their model, it never really works, right? Well, this was the first year we felt the Empire model was solid enough to be replicated. Empire New York is in a position where any change moving forward is going to be minimal, which meant we could focus on expanding and bringing the Empire experience to new cities and schools. I have to say a large part of the decision was having Sue Johnson, Mitch Piper, and Daniel Matarrese on the Executive Board, as well as our new intern program. This year, we had the resources to run a high quality tournament in New York while creating a high quality tournament in San Francisco.
So finally, the big question on everyone’s mind: Is Neptune responsible for the death of Lee Allen?
Ha. We’ll let the judges decide that one.