This story was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of Harker Quarterly
Students in Harker’s forensics program wrapped up a groundbreaking year with arms full of awards and tournament titles, sweeping high honors around the nation and setting a new bar for the future of Harker’s communication studies department.
The middle school debate team won the 2010 National Junior Forensic League championship in Public Forum Debate in late June, and, for the team’s overall success across events, coach Steve Clemmons, the director of middle school forensics, collected one of five School of Excellence in Debate awards given at the tournament. In 2010 students also received accolades in the Victory Briefs International, the James Logan Invitational, the Public Forum Challenge and the Laird Lewis Invitation.
“We sent the most students in Harker history to the Tournament of Champions and had the top two seeds in Public Forum debate after preliminary rounds at the tournament,” said Carol Green, director of public forum debate, summing up the past year’s accomplishments as groundbreaking. However, while wins are appreciated, the more notable accomplishment in Green’s mind was the sense of team unity.
“Forensics are very much individual sports where students compete to win individual titles in addition to team titles,” Green said. “I am very proud at the work they have done and will continue to do to achieve team success.”
Clemmons shared similar sentiments when looking back on the year’s accomplishments. “The past year was awesome,” Clemmons said. “The students put in so much hard work to accomplish so much personal and competitive growth.”
Summer hardly served as a respite from policy and debate. Coaches continued to teach students at various forensic institutes around the nation, and members of the debate team also attended similar programs.
Green directed, with new communication studies faculty member Greg Achten, the Berkeley Public Forum Institute and also the Forensics Institute on the upper school campus. Additionally, Green and Jonathan Peele, director of congressional debate and individual events, taught at Harvard. Students attended the Harker Forensics Institute and Berkeley Public Forum Institute, but some travelled as far as Florida, Boston and Yale to hone their forensics skills in these intensive programs.
“The students get an opportunity to work with some of the best coaches and professors in the nation,” Green said, describing these summer programs as fun and purposeful. “Students can do intense focus work and get specialized instruction that will add to their skill sets and will also bring new ideas back to the program.”
As we roll into a new school year, the forensics team looks forward to the challenges ahead, and, with Achten joining the upper school staff and Karina Momary, the lower school one, the team is looking for ways to expand and improve.
“The only goal is to get better, and records and awards will always sort themselves out,” Clemmons said.
Green is excited about the year’s prospects. “We have very talented and dedicated students, and I can’t wait to work with them this year,” she said. “We are also blessed to have such a supportive community of parents, faculty, staff and administrators. Without them, our team could never be as large or as successful as we are.”