This article was originally published in the fall 2014 Harker Quarterly.
Middle School Team Wins National Titles
Our middle school program performed fabulously at the National Speech & Debate Association Championship in June in Overland Park, Kan. For the third year in a row, the squad received an Overall School of Excellence Award, which is given to the top three middle school debate programs in the country. Many students performed well to contribute to this title. Karina Momary, middle school communication studies teacher, gave a special mention to Aliesa Bahri and Megan Huynh, both grade 9, for taking home the championship in policy debate, and to Nikhil Dharmaraj, grade 8, for winning first place in original oratory.
Debaters Studied at Universities Across the Nation
Harker debaters spent anywhere from one to seven weeks studying debate at various universities. The summer debate institutes took place at Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, Georgetown University, Michigan State University and Harvard University. Students lived in the dorms and worked with some of the top debate instructors in the nation.
Panny Shan, grade 11, said, “My teachers and peers allowed me to rapidly improve my skills while still having fun.”
A highlight of the Georgetown camp was when Ayush Midha, grade 12, interviewed Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., about his experiences as a leader in the civil rights movement. Georgetown debate students were also able to visit the U.S. Supreme Court and were present for the controversial Hobby Lobby decision. “These experiences offered me some incredible insight into the inner workings of our political system and gave me a unique appreciation for American politics,” Midha said.
Several dozen students also attended a camp for public forum and individual events, hosted at Harker by Carol Green, communication studies department chair. The camp featured a great staff of Harker teachers and alumni, as well as other respected coaches in the community. Thirty students attended the public forum debate segment and 12 students attended the individual events, including several experienced Harker middle school students. At the end of the two weeks, the speech students performed in a showcase for the entire institute and the public forum students had a tournament and performed their final round for the whole institute. The debate faculty looks forward to holding the summer program again in 2015.
This year’s national topics promise to be interesting and educational. Policy debaters will be arguing about ocean development, such as offshore oil drilling, Arctic exploration or aquaculture regulations. Lincoln-Douglas debaters have as their first topic the question of whether or not people should be obligated to be organ donors. Public forum students are weighing the value of athletic franchises to their local communities.
Zarek Drozda, grade 11, enthused, “I am looking forward to another great year of Harker debate. We have a very strong team this year and I can’t wait for the first tournament!”
Greg Achten, who advises Lincoln- Douglas debate, concurred. “We have a fabulous lineup of talent and strong team leaders,” he said. “It will be one of our best seasons to date.” The team will compete throughout California as well as in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and a few other states.