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Montpelier High School Debate Team goes to the Nationals

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by Lindsey Grutchfield

Photo by Jen Sciarrotta.
Photo by Jen Sciarrotta.

The Montpelier High School Debate Team has enjoyed great success this year. Our teams placed second and third in the National Forensic League’s Iroquois District Tournament. Later this spring, members Mary Elliott Porter and Aly Furber will compete in the national tournament in Kansas. Leah Sagan-Dworsky will also be attending for congressional debate. We have worked hard to come this far, and it has been a wonderful journey, to say the least.
Preparation for a tournament begins when that month’s topic is released. Topics range from the NSA’s domestic surveillance program, to the value of single-gender classrooms. The team is made up of partners, much like doubles in a tennis match, who debate together. Each individual must write a four-minute speech and be prepared to defend either side of the topic, but the entire team collaborates on research, and no speech is complete without input from others, often via a flurry of emails late the night before a tournament.
I credit much of our success to our team chemistry. I was fortunate enough to have a remarkably talented partner, Thomas Nowlan, who, as the only veteran debater of this year’s team, stepped effortlessly into a leadership role, teaching the novice debaters everything we needed to know. The entire team grew to be excellent debaters, aided also by our coach, Marijke Russo, who supplied seemingly endless research materials.
Debating this year has permanently altered the way I look at world issues. Opinions are easily formed based on one’s upbringing or moral inclinations, but these convictions, while commendable, cannot constitute an objective decision. Debating forces a neutral examination of both sides, giving rise to a new personal opinion based on the facts of the case. The ability to make informed decisions like this becomes ever more vital as my teammates and I transition into adulthood and become active citizens in our communities.
Lindsey Grutchfield is a junior at Montpelier High School.