Debates develop with STC’s new after-school club

Introducing the new South Tama County high school debate club and its founding members (back row L to R) Jameson Tamayo, Arctix Houghton, Enrique Anaya, Alex Carrera, (front row L to R) Jennifer Manzo, Maria Lagunas, Maddiz Sanache and Kira Henle with club advisor Glory Meyer (right). Photo by Vanessa Roudabush.

Students at South Tama high school have been itching to debate and have finally formed a new after-school debate club this month.

“I’m excited we finally have a debate club. This just popped up out of nowhere. I’ve heard about debate clubs all my life. My dad, mother, and older brother were in debate clubs, and now I get to be,” said Arctix Houghton, an STC student and new debate club member.

Fellow student Maddix Sanache agreed.

“I thought it would be a fun activity and club to be in. I really enjoy the people in the debate club and our discussions. I get to share my [own] thoughts and opinions. I get to be heard. And I hope to improve my arguments and statements,” Ganache said.

Teacher Glory Meyer helped spark interest in debating in her language arts classes.

“I have this warm-up activity we do every Wednesday, a daily discussion question. The kids loved it so much, they wanted to do it for the entire period, which we, unfortunately, can’t do because we have to get to curriculum,” she said. “I told students we could do this if there were a debate club.”

After considering forming a debate club due to the student interest, Meyer jumped into helping form the proposal.

“I didn’t plan on doing this initially. Especially since I’m a first-year teacher, but they all wanted to do it so bad that I was like, ‘You should have that opportunity.’ So, I drew up a proposal and presented it to Chelsea to get her input. She thought it was a great idea. Then we brought it to the school board meeting, and they approved, thankfully,” Meyer said.

Students won’t compete with other schools until the fall semester, but Meyer is focusing on teaching them the fundamentals, so they’re prepared.

“I just want to ensure all the students know how to do a structured debate first. How to do their research, and what a structured debate even looks like. Getting through all those basics first and teaching them all the ins and outs before competing,” she said. “I’m trying to make sure this isn’t more homework for them. I want them to choose it, like it, and enjoy it. I’m making sure I’m making it fun and taking small steps.”

But some of the students in the club are craving to compete.

“The prospect of being able to debate against other schools. Just go in, be given a subject, and jump into a spontaneous debate. It’s a lot different going against people you’ve never met before, especially against different schools, because they have no idea who you might be and how you might play it, and that will be a really fun experience,” said Houghton.

Meyer has goals for the students in the debate club, but most of all, she wants to help them grow their communication skills.

“I think debate club can be so useful and helpful not only to students in school but in their life outside of school and after they leave college or even if they go into the workforce, whatever they choose to do. It will help them with communication skills, organization, public speaking, and so many more great skills just to have in life,” she said. “That’s my main goal for them. Get them more well-versed on world topics. This is a great outlet for them to discuss those controversial topics they don’t always get the opportunity to.”

Every kid struggles with confidence issues, but student Kira Henle hopes that the debate club will let her overcome this titan of internal conflict.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence, so it’s hard for me to speak in front of people and share my opinions because I’m afraid of being judged. So that’s the hardest part, is finding my confidence to speak in front of everybody,” Henle said. But I enjoy having intellectual arguments with people who really care about what they’re talking about and [hearing] their opinions on it.”

While some might not consider a debate club an essential after-school activity, Meyer believes it will be more than exceptional for students’ intellectual growth.

“The debate club will help students with their interpersonal communication even more. Especially with research, to get them to think not about their personal opinions but about the other side of the argument. Not just understanding their opinions but other people’s too, because that is crucial in the world that we live in today. To be understanding, empathetic, and kind to one another,” she said.

Meyer is elated about the future of the debate club and can’t wait to watch it grow.

“I’m very excited for this next chapter for the debate club, for STC. I’m hoping to see more students, and I’m excited to see how they progress in their skills and what they do with it,” she said.