Instead of jerseys, the 50 debate teams were outfitted with ties, dress shoes, pressed shirts, sharp wit and organized arguments.
For a second year, the debate program funded through Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids (CASE for Kids) is paired with the successful Houston Urban Debate League (HUDL) model, a nonprofit organization which promotes academic and advocacy skills among urban teens through debate.
For the past 10 years, HUDL grew its student numbers throughout Houston inner city schools to 1,000. CASE for Kids teams recruited its 200 team members from the other 24 Harris County school districts like Alief, Spring and Galena Park. Competition is heightened as up to 40 schools vie for the top honors at competitions.
Enter CASE Debates team member Maegan Madison Ford, 16, a junior at Spring Early College Academy, a college-focused charter school in the Spring Independent School District.
Debate fuels her confidence as a public speaker. She plans to use her new objective thinking skills and organized rhetoric when she becomes a biomedical engineer. Besides, it’s her extracurricular, she says, brandishing a confident smile.
“At Early College, we don’t have sports teams or band, so I would consider debate my band or sport,” she said. “This is our competition, and this is what we want to win.”
HUDL board chair Heather Hatfield says another benefit of debate is that it gives youth a voice and encourages teens to pay attention to the world around them. She also points out the statistic that most debaters go on to college.
County School Superintendent James Colbert Jr. credits the HCDE Board of Trustees for seeing the value of the program and providing start-up funding to support its expansion into the other 24 Harris County school districts. The CASE Debates program is easy to promote to the 10,000-plus students served through CASE for Kids as an established afterschool curriculum.
“Our number of student enthusiasts continue to grow, and we see the value of a competitive, academic program that builds confidence among our inner-city youth,” Colbert said.
“It’s good for the kids,” said Enrique Solis, the debate coach at the Spring Early College campus. “It speaks to the skills our students will need in college like public speaking, working in teams, being persuasive and writing concisely.”
Student and debate captain Da’vion Javonte March likes to argue and talk about controversial subjects in the controlled environment debate offers. The sophomore is already working on an associate degree and plans to become an anesthesiologist as a long-term career goal. He’s concerned today about the decisions he’s making for the betterment of his team.
As the Spring ISD team readies for round two in the tournament, they take time to rally together for a photo with their coach.
Brimming with confidence and camaraderie, this team of 12 is ready to go out and challenge the world as creative, confident, critical thinkers.
About Good News You Can Use: “Good News You Can Use” showcases the partnerships between Harris County Department of Education and school districts and organizations.