Washington School’s Migrant Ed Debate Team headed to southern California the first weekend of May to compete in a California-wide speech and debate contest. They headed home after winning second place for middle school debate.
Of the 24 debate teams that were present, the five students in the Washington group had to compete with five other speech and debate teams directly.
“I hope the Migrant Ed program has the opportunity to grow here in Cloverdale,” said James Pennington, an English teacher at Washington and the advising teacher for the Washington Migrant Ed Debate Team. “I think if there is an example of what students can do with opportunity, this is really a perfect example in the sense of we got to go and represent Cloverdale, a town that a lot of people hadn’t heard of.”
Migrant Education programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Education and are meant to help support students who are the children of those who work in jobs typical of migrants, such as agriculture.
Pennington was asked to lead the debate team in November, but they have been steadily placing higher year after year. To get to the California State Speech and Debate Competition, they had to win the regional competition that was held earlier this year. Last year they placed second in that competition, this year placing first, which enabled them to head on to State.
“For me what ended up being the most rewarding aspect was watching their growth … it’s blowing me away,” Pennington said.
Of the debate team members — Jovanny Gonzalez, Ashley Carrillo, Angelina Carrillo, Leslie Cardenas and Silvia Navarro — some are in their second year of debate. However, Pennington said that he believes that all of the students intend to continue on with the program as long as they’re able to.
During the competition, the students had to debate both the pros and cons of technology — specifically whether it enhances or hinders the classroom. This topic followed them throughout the leaderboards of the regional and state speech competitions.
The competitions proved useful to the students, who said that participating in speech and debate has made them more confident public speakers.
During the team’s presentation at a May 8 Cloverdale Unified School District board meeting, student Ashley Carillo discussed how the competition emphasized not rushing into an argument, and thinking through discussion points.
“People get angry and they just say it and they’re not really laying down. In debate, it really gets you to say pros and cons of your argument formally, so you’re more well-respected,” Carillo said. “That’s what it taught, too. Whenever we’re arguing, we can say both pros and cons and people will actually have respect for us because we’re not just saying, ‘You’re wrong and I’m right.’”