When it comes to the advice to think before you speak, the Homer High School students in the Drama, Debate and Forensics club have got it down. Judging by the Friday and Saturday DDF tournament at HHS, so do the 100 students representing Nikiski, Seward, Wasilla, South Anchorage, Eagle River, Chugiak and Bartlett high schools.
“It was very moving to see how intelligent and creative their minds are,” said Monte Davis, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and one of the tournament judges. “I thoroughly enjoyed it and would do it again in a heartbeat. It was very well done.”
Davis was one of several community members who volunteered to judge the two-day event. Other judges included UAA professors, high school teachers, coaches “and a lot of the community stepping up and being willing to give their time to help these kids get critiques and advice,” said Amy Christiansen, DDF adviser for Homer High. “We’re very grateful to the volunteers from the community who came to help judge.”
In Homer, the DDF students meet twice a week to sharpen their skills and work on research in advance of events like the tournament with the help of Christiansen and assistant coaches Kyra Wagoner and Brian Strickland.
“There have been studies that show kids that participate in forensics and debate in high school make more. They’re more willing to go to their bosses and argue for raises,” said Christiansen of the long-term DDF benefits. “But it also gives students a chance to be more confident in their speaking skills and be able to have a point and not just believe in it, but understand why the other side might or might not be right or wrong.”
Students that participate in debate have to prepare to argue both sides of a given topic. Topics are selected through voting of National Forensics League members.
During the Homer tournament, students took sides on whether or not the federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States. They also addressed whether or not the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission harms the election process. At a December event, they addressed budget cuts vs. tax increases.
“This allows students to participate in real discussions, real debates in the matter,” said Christiansen. “It gives them the skills, lets them be more confident in front of people, be critical thinkers, helps them think on their feet. Those are good skills we all want kids to have.”
After graduating from high school, some local students have gone on to compete at the college level.
“Ruby Quarton graduated two years ago and she’s on the (University of Alaska Anchorage) debate team, which is ranked in the top 10 in the world routinely,” said Christiansen. “(Homer High graduate) Kelsey Waldorf is on the UAA debate team and she’s competing in a world tournament in Ireland this weekend.”
Next up is the state competition at East Anchorage High School and UAA on Feb. 14-16. Fifteen Homer students will be participating.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.