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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

    Mr. Donnellan takes Gonzaga students to a high-profile court trial
    Enrique Tarrio and the Proud Boys at Virginia 2nd Amendment Rally in January 2020. Photo used with CC permission and taken by Anthony Crider Flickr

    Located in Washington, D.C., Gonzaga College High School students have immense learning opportunities. Mr. Ed Donnellan, a history teacher, has tapped into some of these unique opportunities by taking students from his Government and Politics class into the federal courthouse to experience history in the making. The endeavor has allowed students to take advantage of the history-rich atmosphere outside of Gonzaga. 

    Since the beginning of 2023, the Proud Boys, a far-right, neo-fascist organization, have been in court on seditious conspiracy following the riots at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Five top members, Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominick Pezzola, are all being charged in a trial together. 

    Mr. Donnellan explained how this case is different from others.

    “I think what stands out again, is that this is a multi-defendant case. It’s not one defendant, and also that the charges these five men are facing are the most serious yet in the January 6 investigations,” Mr. Donnellan said. 

    While talking to a class, Nordean’s lawyer said they were denied a solo trial after asking. 

    “She didn’t seem to care about professionalism; she just wanted our class to think her client is in the right,” said Will Shean, senior.

    Many students, emotionally moved by the feeling in the room, shared their thoughts with Mr. Donnellan. They were able to feel the energy of every part of this situation, which adds a hint of truth to it. 

    “There was a very serious energy in the room. You knew you were walking into a courtroom where there was a lot at stake. I think the fact that there’s so many attorneys in there also lends itself to a level of seriousness,” Mr. Donnellan said. 

    Most high school students had never been inside a courtroom before doing this with their class. Nearly every case is open for public viewing during trials, which means anyone has access to this learning experience on any day.

    “It’s important that we view D.C. as our classroom. Actually being part of what you’re learning is a monumental difference from reading it in a book,” Mr. Donnellan said. 

    So far, Government classes have been to the federal court three times, but Mr. Donnellan has gone there twice on his own.

     “I think the response of my students has been overwhelming, […]so yes, we’ll certainly be going back,” Mr. Donnellan said.

    Each day in court is different depending on the witnesses. Mr. Donnellan is waiting for witnesses that will shape this trial. 

    Learning from experience allows students to see history for themselves, rather than hearing somebody talk about it. The nation’s capital has so much to offer when it comes to learning and students of Gonzaga should all recognize and take advantage of these glorious opportunities.

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