Debate camp in Oakland

Diego Garcia (rising junior at Fremont High School’s Media Academy), Rashid Campbell (Skyline High School Class of 2010, soon-to-be sophomore at University of Oklahoma) and Annessa Lopez (rising junior at Skyline) tell us all about last week’s Bay Area Urban Debate League summer camp, a free institute that was held last week at Oakland’s Westlake Middle School. – Katy

Diego Garcia
DIEGO GARCIA: Two years ago I went to my first BAUDL summer institute, dragged along by my sister Jazmin to the foreign world of debate. I remember being nervous: I had never engaged in an activity like that before, and was worried about having to speak in front of a crowd. But in the end I loved it, and started spending a lot of time on it, enough that my partner and I came out of last year’s season as League Champions.

When the 2011 BAUDL institute began my biggest concern was the camp tournament – I had a reputation to defend. The last day of the institute there is a tournament were debaters would test their knowledge based on their own personal experiences and what they learned during the week. Being the competitive debater that I am it’s always exciting being at a tournament just to really challenge opponents and make it a learning experience for both teams.

This year we will be debating about space – like my lab leader at the summer institute told us, space is literally infinite, so there was a lot to talk about. There was a case on space colonization – should we send a group out into the stars just in case we blow ourselves up here on planet earth? – a case on global weather monitoring systems, and a few others. Up for debate were whether developing space could lead to nuclear proliferation, and whether the government or private companies should take the lead.

The best part of debate camp was the whole learning experience not only with my coaches, but with my peers as well. To be able to share knowledge and different perspective in debate camp is just fun because we can compare ideas and see how they tend to play out. Every year it is great just to see new debaters rising up so to speak, because I know that the league will become better as a unit as these new recruits join our community. I like to see debaters with years of experience share the knowledge they have gathered with the young and less experienced minds. I know that the new recruits eventually will do the same for the next generation.

This year I am really looking forward to all the tournaments and debate rounds my partner and I will engage in since it is a great deal of fun – clashing with arguments, advocating for policy options, and researching our own cases. This year, my biggest goal is to win league championships all over again, but for that I see a lot of new, tough competition that are quickly learning, that they too have the same goal – but hey, that’s debate.

Rashid CampbellRASHID CAMPBELL: Being from Oakland has taught me a lot about how to deal with and handle certain situations. As stressful as the competition of debate gets some times, I know I have been through more, and every hard experience I have had actually helps me win in debate. I am one of those debaters that brings poetry and stories about what has happened to me and my people into the arguments I use in competition, and I am motivated to help the youth use the same strategies to find the power in their own voices.

To be quick with it, I was excited to be working with Bay Area Urban Debate League youth as a staff member for this summer institute. This year we had some great students. Some of them were really not enthusiastic about debate at first, but over time they grew to love it just as much as the staff. My lab in particular was the “underdog” group of the varsity labs. We took the students who had less experience in debate and helped them develop tools and tactics so they could compete on even ground with the top teams in the league.

Over the week, we helped them understand that winning a debate round takes more than just an abundance of information from politicians and academics.  You have to mobilize the experiences you have been through and what you already know from your own life. The academic base of debate makes it a challenge for kids in the urban areas to want to be involved in this activity, but we were working with them to break down their fears and become intellectual warriors.

I was in their shoes only a year ago, so I am very used to the feeling. By telling them how I came to be a debater from a urban area and slowly came to love this activity, I am trying to help them do the same. Over time the excitement from the students was not something that came from me jumping around and telling them to have fun while they are debating. The excitement came from them learning to speak with power and pride, and having that feeling that for once in their lives someone had to listen to what they were saying as something that is intelligent and that really matters. This is why I love this activity and this is why I loved the BAUDL Summer Institute!

Annessa LopezANNESSA LOPEZ: My experience at the BAUDL Summer Institute was remarkable. This was the first time I ever attended a debate camp, so I was excited. Earlier in the summer, I got a scholarship from BAUDL to go to a national-level debate camp at UC Berkeley for two weeks. It was my first time living on a college campus, so it was amazing, and it armed me with skills and arguments that I was ready to try out in the BAUDL community.

Going to the Berkeley camp really set the bar high for BAUDL, but I wasn’t let down. Summer camp with BAUDL was just as good if not better. My lab leaders were amazing. One of them was a Berkeley student who is one of the best college debaters in the country –the other two were alumni who had been through the program before, so they showed us the ropes. The BAUDL staff, Perry and Dmitri, were most definitely there for me, but also for every student there at the camp. So you could feel the love.

I first started debating when last year when I was in 10th grade, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting much. At first, debate was just a class and I had no interest because it just “wasn’t my thing.” But over time I fell in love with debate more and more – most of the time in school being loud is a bad thing, so there aren’t many other places where I can use my voice freely and get rewarded for speaking out.

So overall BAUDL came up with a camp that was just as good as a well-known national camp. If I had a job as a summer camp critic, I would definitely rate them 4.9 stars out of five – they lost a tenth of a point just because I didn’t win the whole tournament!

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Celia

    My son loved this camp. I recommend it to others- and it’s free with meals provided. I hope other high schools in Oakland can follow Skyline’s example and offer a debate class as well as a after school club. It can have a big impact.

  • http://thrivingstudents.org/5 Brenden

    Thanks to Rashid and BAUDL for this excellent and engaging camp. My rising 10th grade daughter was very apprehensive at first to participate in debate and not know anyone. That quickly changed. She worked hard, got recognized and became inspired. Now she wants to join her high school team this year.