Remaining at Hillsdale College did not fit into Jonathan and Lindsey Churches’ ’17 original plans of teaching, getting master’s degrees, and going to law school. However, the couple have stayed on staff to help run the Mock Trial team at Hillsdale College ever since graduating three years ago.
“In a way, I never left,” Jonathan said. “I was not expecting to stick around here. I did not anticipate that happening.”
Like many students who come to Hillsdale, Lindsey and Jonathan were interested in different fields, but changed their minds. Both found that they wanted to be involved in the classical side of things. Lindsey said she originally wanted to pair math and economics, but fell in love with classical education.
“I realized that I just loved math for itself and I was also kind of simultaneously getting interested in liberal arts education and classical education,” Lindsey said. “So I decided that I wanted to teach math instead.”
Jonathan said he started out wanting to study politics and was looking into law school, but once he started taking classics, he changed his mind.
“I saw a need for people to teach, for people to teach well,” Jonathan said. “I got really excited about digging into important questions rather than reading textbooks.”
The Churches have been involved in Mock Trial from the beginning. While Lindsey was pursuing a math major and Jonathan a classics and philosophy major, they competed in Mock Trial as students all four years. By his junior year, Jonathan was helping to manage the team as well as competing, working under Mock Trial coach and Hillsdale County’s Prosecuting Attorney Neal Brady.
The original plan was for both of them to teach at a classical education K‑12 school and for Jonathan to go to grad school, but their paths took a turn in their last semester of senior year when Brady didn’t have anyone else to float the program.
“It’s an opportunity for Hillsdale students to go out and test themselves in a public speaking environment that pits them against the best undergrads in the nation,” Jonathan said. “I looked at that and I said, ‘That’s something worthwhile. That’s good, and I don’t want to let this die. I don’t want to see the team suffer because nobody’s willing to lead it.’”
For the first two years, the Churches drove two hours to Detroit to teach, and for every Wednesday and many weekends, they would drive back to the college to coach after a full day of teaching, often spending late nights finishing work, helping team members, and studying.
“Coaching public speaking teams, you’re always on call,” Jonathan said. “And we practice late in the evening because there’s no way we’re going to practice during the day.”
Though the Churches had a great experience in Mock Trial as student, the team didn’t often compete on national levels. Over the past three years, however, the team has become more focused and competitive; it now competes with high-level colleges and universities.
“What I think really offers a lot of good to students is the competition is quite high,” Jonathan said. “We don’t compete against little schools in Mock Trial. In the last couple tournaments, we were in competition with Penn State and Michigan and Columbia, Yale, and Brown.”
After two years of coaching, the rhetoric and public address department started advertising a lecturer for rhetoric and public address as well as a full-time Mock Trial coach. Jonathan applied while working on his master’s and got the position earlier this fall.
Lindsey teaches for homeschool co-op Hillsdale Classical and works in admissions for the college.
“I’ve loved it so much,” Lindsey said. “I got the chance to teach younger grades. I didn’t peg myself as someone who would find that really awesome. I was intimidated to teach younger grades, but it’s been great.”
According to Lindsey, staying in Hillsdale has allowed her to get to know the community on a different level, and she likes the familiarity.
“It was actually really great that first year to have the team and to have Hillsdale. We got to come back to the place that we knew well and to the group of people that we knew well,” Lindsey said. “It was almost like a family environment. That was actually very meaningful to me. Getting to know the community of Hillsdale as a town more fully has been a blessing.”
Lindsey said seniors can take the spirit of the Hillsdale community with them and create it wherever they go, even if they’re not staying in Hillsdale post-graduation.
“Obviously not everyone who goes to Hillsdale can come back, necessarily,” Lindsey said. “I think a big thing is just taking what you learned at Hillsdale, not just the knowledge that you learned but how you interact with people and treat people, and creating that sphere wherever you end up.”
Junior Sophia Klomparens, a Mock Trial competitor, said the Churches are “like adopted family.” She can go to them with questions about life and count on them to help her grow.
“I can honestly say I am a more mature person because I know the Churches,” Klomparens said in an email.
She said she remembers talking to the Churches on long van rides to tournaments, having conversations about her family, goals, and interests.
“I remember being really surprised that they didn’t just care about me as a Mock Trial competitor, but they wanted to know who I was as a person. That’s a huge part of why I keep doing Mock Trial year after year — because of the caring environment the Churches foster in the program.”