Heidi Zemach for SCN –
The oratory flew thick and fast. So much so that those in the audience not used to processing information at that rate of speed could barely take in its meaning. Nevertheless, they were impressed by the extensive memorization and academic prowess displayed as students vied with one another not only with words but facts.
Now well into its third year, the Seward High School Debate, Drama, and Forensics Team, led by Agusta Lind, showcased their talents and skirmished at the SHS Auditorium last Thursday before a small audience of parents and interested community members.
The team of 20 students, a three-fold increase over its rookie year, has already participated in four tournaments in Anchorage, and is doing extremely well, Lind said. The team has consistently made the top three teams in Public Forum debate, Duo Interpretation, Duet Acting, Dramatic Interpretation, and Reader’s Theater. Its members are working hard to prepare for the state tournament in Anchorage February 13-15th.
“We are proud of all of our awards,” said Lind. “Beyond that we are proud of how much students have improved this year, how well our newest members are doing, and the atmosphere of camaraderie we have built as a team.”
During the performance they held a moment of silence to honor their recently deceased freshman team mate Alden Hamilton and his family who, though not there, were much in their hearts and thoughts.
“I’d always been a quiet kid, I kept to myself, always had my nose buried in a book, I didn’t know how to act around new people,” said Sophomore Alyssa Leisure. “Then my freshman year I decided I wanted to try something new: the DDF team. I didn’t really know anyone on the team. As soon as I showed up for the first meeting everyone was happy to show me some of the events, and even did an event with me. They made me feel quite welcome. I eventually opened up more and now I’m a happy member of our DDF family.”
Susannah and Moriah Doepken, twins, performed their duo interpretation of the short comic play by David Ives, “Sure Thing.” The skit, similar to the movie “Groundhog Day,” showed the vast variety of encounters a man can have with an attractive woman he meets, and how easily his attempts at picking her up can be spurned. This was accomplished by resetting each new encounter with the ding of a bell the moment it turned negative. The Doepken girls’ unemotional deadpan delivery, and nearly identical voices made the skit quite interesting. But more impressive was how they managed to remember so many variations of an encounter that always started out the same way.
“What debate has done for me is it’s allowed me to open up to what I truly have inside of me and allowed me to really become more vocal, both about what I believe in, the things I stand for, but also to just get comfortable talking in front of people and being able to present myself, and loudly and clearly to where people can understand me,” said SHS Sophomore Joevahnta (or Joe) Usugan-Weddington, now in his second year on the team.
Joevahnta and Allie Katsma debated Emily Brockman and Christian Tofson over the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision declaring that Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. It helped prepare them to debate the same issue during the upcoming state meet.
Having to research contemporary topics such as the constitutionality of the voting rights act in the U.S., and world issues he knew nothing about such as conflicts occurring in the Sahara region of Africa, has opened his eyes to a lot of important things, Weddington said. In debate competitions, he often has to forcefully argue the other side, which allows him to see both sides of a topic, and that sometimes makes him change his original opinion, he said.
“The debate team has been really awesome in my life. I’ve met most of my friends through it probably, I really enjoy learning about both sides of both issues, I’ve learned a lot about Constitutional Law and it’s actually made me think about maybe becoming a constitutional lawyer in the future just because of how interesting a lot of it is,” said Griffin Plush.
The skills he is acquiring complements his work with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a leadership group for teens who educate, inspire, and lobby their lawmakers on issues affecting their communities, Plush said: “I think any freshman who’s going into high school should consider it because it helps you develop a lot of skills you might not otherwise in high school. It makes you really good at public speaking in my opinion, and understanding arguments.”