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Debate Program Grows and Bonds

CX Debate Captain senior Ben Schnuck stands on a chair to explain a debate game to the team. Debate has bonded through their shared interest in arguing and logic.

Dalton Mix

CX Debate Captain senior Ben Schnuck stands on a chair to explain a debate game to the team. Debate has bonded through their shared interest in arguing and logic.

Home appears in the form of AJ-114. Beyond the medal-covered walls, overflowing trophy cases and “debate family tree” displayed on the whiteboard lays a sense of friendship, unity and dedication unprecedented by any debate team before them.

The debate squad experienced unparalleled growth this year as it gained 57 new members- more than five times last year’s amount. However, the team’s expansion goes beyond their trophies, attendance numbers and awards. The debate team became more unified, welcoming and dedicated than ever before.

“One of my goals is to continue winning, but it isn’t the thing I necessarily want most,” Debate President Katlin Nguyen said. “I want this to be a creative outlet for kids.”

The team achieved success at tournaments in previous years. Debate Coach Howard Ritz has seen the ginormous impacts of the program on the lives of former students as well.

“I’ve seen students labeled content mastery become doctors,” Mr. Ritz said. “Students who thought they had no place to go or didn’t fit in or were hard on themselves or had low self-esteem- I’ve seen debate not only build their self-esteem but they act on that self-esteem too. Once you go out of your comfort zone in debate what I’ve seen is that former students have gone on to do things they didn’t even dream of when they were in high school.”

Last year’s team earned extensive accomplishments. However, amongst the national competition, state qualifiers and tournament champions laid a divided team.

“Definitely team bonds needed to be improved upon last year,” sophomore Isabella Estes said. “They weren’t there. Like in football, you always see in the movies they’re always really close to each other, but debate is also an activity. We should also show the same kinds of bonds. We just had to work on them and improve them.”

I’ve seen students labeled content mastery become doctors.”

— Mr. Howard Ritz

Public Forum Debate Captain Maddison Kirby proposed an idea last spring to improve the leadership through an elaborate application process. The application required students to create a binder detailing their leadership qualities, personal achievements and Debate goals. Mr. Ritz believed this would increase debaters’ connections through a promotion of student leadership.

“Being in a leadership role is something that’s very important,” Kirby said. “Anyone can say ‘oh I want to be captain over something’ but I feel like you actually have to put in work to actually be a captain.”

The leadership team comprises of six captains over the individual debate events, a debate president and three secretary positions. The leadership team meets for occasional discussions over important issues, mentors beginner debaters and keeps the program organized. These activities have improved the overall culture on the team.

“Debate is now more self-driven and student-centered,” Mr. Ritz said. “I think that students want to be given more responsibility and when they are they feel better about themselves. They’ve learned how to deal with drama in a professional manner rather than emotional manner. “

The team also seeks to improve their bonds outside of required tournaments, practices and class. Debaters host socials once a month, talk with each other outside of class and spend their lunch period together.

“We’re just kind of all friends now,” Kirby said. “I like how close we’ve all gotten and how we just all talk to each other and it’s just nice.”

The team emphasized their outreach to new students, specifically freshman, this year. Freshman Olivia Tarkington feels she has already experienced the unique debate team culture.

“The team is really dynamic with how they do their stuff and they really include everybody which is good,” Tarkington said. “It’s like family and friends because of how nice everyone is and there’s not really any drama.”

As the year progresses, the debate team hopes for more than just more state qualifiers and tournament champions. Mr. Ritz hopes the student-led team will build a program where students can find their place to feel emotionally safe and socially accepted, regardless of their wins and losses.

“As I decrease my role as the coach I’m seeing the team increase, their self-esteem increase and their pride increase,” Mr. Ritz said. “It’s becoming something to be proud of because the students are accomplishing it — not me.”

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Debate Program Grows and Bonds”

  1. Katelyn Pasierb on October 4th, 2017 3:15 pm

    This is such an amazing article! This is go great! You wrote so beautifully! Thank you so much for writing about debate!

    [Reply]

  2. Summer Barakat on October 4th, 2017 6:46 pm

    You’re a great writer. I loved this story. Keep Writing 🙂

    [Reply]

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