Debate: Where Teamwork Makes the Dream Work


Photo by Ariana De

Juniors Michelle Tiburcio and Jocelyn Guzman practice debating on Zoom.

The Speech and Debate team has participated in competitions since October, and has grown familiar with tension and the adrenaline rush of arguments, cross examination, and rebuttals. With just five members, the team has powered through research and rehearsals of arguments on the assigned topics of water resources, the use of fracking, and the use of lead.

The Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL) championship took place March 11 and 12 on  Zoom, and students participated from home and from school. Four students formed two pairs and advanced to the semifinals: juniors Michelle Tiburcio with Jocelyn Guzman, and junior Stephany Urbina- Diaz with freshman Andres Gonzalez

“I think it’s a good thing for everyone to experience at least once in their life,” said freshman Angelica Paaga, who wasn’t able to attend the tournament. “It builds communication with others and it helps with your speaking.”

Michelle, the only team member who has done Speech and Debate before this year won the MVP (most valuable player) award on Saturday after semifinals. Having worked solo and in pairs, she said the power of teamwork is what really leads to success.

“I wouldn’t really recommend going solo because you don’t have a partner to let you take breaks, and you need a partner so you can rely on them for more ideas and advice,” she said.

But with such a small team, going solo became more common. The team encourages other students to join, even if they are joining late, because events are still happening.

Some students worry that they can’t manage participating in both sports and an elective like Debate, but it can be done. Angelica has managed to juggle Debate and basketball at the same time.

“In the morning, during school, I can focus on going to a game,” she said.  “Then after school, it’s fun having Speech and Debate, and having tournaments during the weekend.”

The team will participate in Moot Court next, where they will have the opportunity to work with professional licensed judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to prepare thesis arguments for a tournament in July. The arguments will be in favor of equity for transgender athletes in sports.

Stephany looks forward to working with the judges.

“I do sports as well, and I think anyone should have access to sports,” said Stephany, who won a speaker award for her team at the tournament. “I don’t think it’s fair to leave them out so I’m ready to argue for that equality,”