By Elia Chuaqui
When most people think of a typical debate, they imagine a series of one-on-one war of words in which the debaters have prepared their speeches weeks, even months, in advance and are equipped to argue over political issues or current events. Wrong.
At El Cerrito High School’s Speech and Debate Team, students have a variety of events to choose from, ranging from Humorous and Dramatic Interpretation and Original Prose and Poetry, to Student Congress and Policy Debate.
Some events require little to no preparation time, such as Parliamentary Debate and Impromptu Speaking, whereas others require memorization and prepared notes, such as Policy Debate and Duo Interpretation. Each event is unique and individual in its own way, and has different requirements and expectations.
“Picking an event is always difficult because they are all so interesting and are so much fun,” explained Cristy Resendiz, a senior, Varsity debater, and co-president of the Debate Team. “My advice would be to look at yourself and see what kind of person you are, your interests, and what you are capable of. Look at your level of commitment, because some events need more time and effort depending on how far you want to get.”
Whether you choose a Speech event or a Debate event (or both!), fun is practically guaranteed, as you will get to spend time with a diverse group of friends, and improve your public speaking skills.
“I did Lincoln Douglas debate freshman year, Duo sophomore year, and Parliamentary Debate and Impromptu junior year,” said Simon Cohen, a junior and Varsity debater. “I did LD because it fit my personality style, Duo because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and Parli and Impromptu because I wanted to have knowledge of current events. There’s a wide range of choices.”
Most debaters attend practice once to twice a week on the day that corresponds with their event. Coaches are present every day to ensure good tournament results and help with anything the students need, such as a judge for a mock Parli round, someone to help with blocking for an Interp piece, or someone go over lines or a case with.
“Annmarie and Zeid are the Speech coaches, who are also Gaucho alumni,” explained Rebecca Dao, a senior. “They have helped me so much in my event and I would not have gotten far and placed in the top 3 in tournaments without them.”
“Our coaches are incredible,” agreed Resendiz. “Sadaaf and Darrell are hilarious and always up to making it not only a very serious but fun environment, which is often difficult to do. Zeid is awesome, and really cares about the future of our team. Annmarie, our “mama bear,” has helped all of us grow over the years, starting out as a team of about 7 to a team of 45. Touching everyone with her kindness and commitment, we attend her Sunday and Monday practices working hard and inspiring each other to work toward all of our goals. After meeting all of our coaches and seeing what they are capable of you will want to stay on our team forever.”
After attending practices, debaters are present at tournaments throughout the year, in which they get to show case their skills and demonstrate everything they have learned.
“For most debate tournaments you have to wake up a little early, but it’s worth it,” said Cohen. “You wear fancy clothes like suits and dresses, but it’s great because everyone looks really classy. You have multiple rounds of your event during the tournament and at the end if you do well you get a trophy!”
“Last year I got first in the Santa Clara Invitational in Public Forum,” accounted William Bell, a sophomore. “A good deal of the team was there to support me and my partner during the last round, and it was a lot of fun.”
Receiving a trophy isn’t the only reason to join the Debate Team. Although differing in grade level, past experience and even interest, debaters from every corner of ECHS have come together to make up the Speech and Debate Team.
“My team is my family,” stated Resendiz. “There is nothing like forensics. It’s literally a whole other world.”
“We all value different things, but in the long run, we value having fun and we can't do that unless we have teamwork,” agreed Dao.
“It is just an amazing group of people that really have welcomed me into the family that is the debate team,” concludes Bell.
Elia Chuaqui is associate editor of the El Cerrito High School paper, El Caballero, and a junior at the school. This article was published in the paper last month.