This Saturday, Columbia’s Youth for Debate club is holding a tournament for the students they’ve been working with throughout the school year. Bwog caught up with YFD’s new president, Misha Solomon, to learn more.
Bwog: What is Youth for Debate?
Misha: Youth for Debate teaches public speaking and debate in underserved and underfunded New York City public schools. We seek to give a voice to our future by using public speaking and debate skills to teach self-advocacy and to empower students. We’ve been around since 2010 and we’re now one of the biggest education organizations on campus.
Bwog: Could you briefly describe the tournament?
Misha: This tournament is a chance for the students we teach all semester to participate in a debate tournament at Columbia. The schools at which we teach don’t have formal debate programs, so the students don’t have a chance to debate in leagues. At our tournament they debate a topic they’ve spent all year preparing; this year, that topic is added taxes (“fat taxes”) on unhealthy food.
Bwog: How often do you hold it?
Misha: This is the second year we’ve held the tournament. We hope to do it every spring going forward.
Bwog: What’s the biggest difficulty you’ve had organizing this?
Misha: Liaising with the schools and students is difficult. There are a number of steps before students can come to our tournament — parents and teachers need to sign off, and so making sure that the students submit permission slips in time for us to book the correct number of rooms, order enough food, etc. is a challenge.
Bwog: What did you enjoy most about the experience last year?
Misha: I debated in high school, and tournaments were a fun collection of interested and invested students (read: nerds) who loved nothing more than talking about previous rounds during downtime. It was amazing to see our students having the same experience, even though many of them had only been exposed to formal debate for a semester and had never participated in a tournament.