After participating in competitions since last September, 19 Charlotte-area students will prepare for the most important competition of them all: the National Forensic League Speech and Debate Tournament in Birmingham.
Qualifying for the national competition in June isn’t easy. Students have researched for hours, awakened at 4 a.m. on Saturdays for competitions and practiced their public speaking at all hours.
The four qualifiers from North Mecklenburg High weighed in on life on the team and what it took to make it to nationals.
“I like being heard, and debate is a really great way to have that because people are basically forced to sit and listen to you for up to 10 minutes and 30 seconds,” quipped Colleen Watson, a senior.
Teammate Camara Hill, a junior, said: “It’s truly the definition of friendly competition. … We compete, but everyone is still very cordial.”
Camara will be giving an original oratory on the topic of rejection in Birmingham.
“Being pushed outside my comfort zone has definitely helped me with my speaking (and) …writing abilities.”
Abhi Kulgod, a sophomore, said time management was a big lesson he’s learned: “I’ll admit the debate team’s a lot of work. I had to learn really quickly how to balance it with school work and other extracurriculars.”
He’s also gained valuable research skills and a curiosity about current events. Before joining, “I may not have checked the news as much, but now I’m regularly looking at what’s happening.”
To qualify for the national level, he and his debating partner, Irfan Mekic, successfully debated federally mandated health insurance.
Irfan, a senior, started debating last year when he moved to Charlotte from Pennsylvania. “I always liked academic events like this, and it was also a way to meet new people at a new school,” he said.
In the past year, the students have debated topics including gun control, climate change and the so-called fiscal cliff.
To prepare for debates, Irfan said he usually researches for about two hours a day, six days a week.
And like his partner, Irfan said debating has sharpened his thinking skills. “I’m able to respond a lot faster. My train of thought has become more sophisticated, and my overall conversation has become much more intelligent,” he said.
Colleen said being a part of the team at school often comes with the stereotype of “nerdy people who are socially awkward and sitting in a corner writing essays.”
“We’re nerdy, but we’re very socially conscious and capable. The debate itself is a very important part of it ... but another important part is the social aspect and learning to talk to people and make friends,” she said. “The entire experience is incredible.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @YoungAchCLT
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