Debate team members (pictured above) include, front row: Merrick Gormley, Austin Alaspa, Linnea Week. Second row: Jack Ferrell, Joshua Nkhata, Lauren Martin, Ian Caufield. Third row: Elmo Fernandez-Armstrong, Ryan Allen, Grace Hanson. Not pictured: Anders Erdahl, Christian Henkels and Annika Wulf.
By Lorrie Ham
The newly-formed Mound Westonka High School Classic Debate Team participated in its first competitive debate in Apple Valley last week, where a total of 13 MWHS students in grades 8 through 11 debated whether the United States should require one year of national service from all young adults.
That topic will be debated at the first three tournaments of the season using a competitive, interscholastic debate format in which teams of two students clash over current issues. The teams argue both the affirmative and negative sides of the resolution (topic) twice over the course of a single-day tournament, which involves four total hours of debating.
Coached by volunteer parent Andrea Gormley with support of staff advisor Danielle Glewwe, members of the Westonka Schools-affiliated team practice at the high school throughout the week in preparation for Saturday tournaments.
A group of motivated students held a meeting last spring to determine interest in forming a high school debate team. As the parent of one of the students, Gormley volunteered to coach the team. Over the summer, the group worked with Todd Herring, debate coach at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, to establish plans and policies for the creation of a new team at MWHS.
“The students were eager to start a team and I had the time and energy to help make that happen,” said Gormley.
Thanks to the guidance of Jeff Peterson and Lynne Peterson in the activities department, formation of the debate team received school board approval in August and the team began practicing the first week of school.
Team members are improving their research, essay writing, public speaking and critical thinking skills, as well as honing their ability to see both sides of complex arguments, said Gormley. And while it might sound like homework to some, the students are actually having fun.
“I can’t speak for the kids, but if their smiles and energy levels are any indication, I’d say they’re having fun,” said Gormley. “And so am I.”
The team will travel to Rochester, Stillwater, Burnsville, Minnetonka, Mankato and South St Paul for competitions in this inaugural year.
“These kids are exceptional,” said Gormley. “With them as ambassadors, I believe we’ll have a Westonka debate team for many years to come.”