Meet the Debaters


Jayanne Forrest

Jayanne Forrest
Senior
Fort Lauderdale High School

I got into debate through watching The Great Debaters. It’s how I learned about debate, especially about it being helpful to Black students in school and improving their reading and writing. I realized it could mean more to me than just an academic activity. I think the biggest barrier for students in financial need is that so many things are predicated on having money. The dress code is expensive. The camp is really expensive. If I didn’t have TDC (Texas Debate Collective), I couldn't develop at a competitive rate. Lastly, the cost of tournaments gets expensive when you add them up. Students of color have a burden of proof, in a sense, coming into an all- white activity. They’re assumed to not be as smart or as competitive. And it’s hard to have discussions for students of color [about race] in spaces that are predominantly white.

Hansel Guzman-Soto

Hansel Guzman-Soto
Senior
Tahoma High School

I think debate makes great people. It makes them very aware of the world. I started debate my freshman year. I picked it up and at first I started doing local debate and then I found out about national circuit debate, which was interesting to me because of how intense it is. I found Access Debate when I was looking up ways I could attend national circuit tournaments because I didn’t have the resources to do that on my own. If you don’t have the financial resources to be able to attend camps where you can have access to the community, it becomes difficult because then you’re entering debate as an outsider. In general you just don’t feel like a part of it. I have a single parent and we’ve been raised to be responsible for ourselves so she trusts what I do. I emigrated from Mexico when I was 2. Came with my mom and sister. I’ve taken up 2 jobs and put funds aside for it debate. I work at a fast food place and do gardening work for someone. What I really like about debate is it lets you get out of the classroom setting, where you’re given knowledge but not asked to think critically about it. You get advocacy skills. I’m able to be curious about lots of different things and examine myself as an intellectual. I like to play basketball, do a lot of reading. Mostly debate books like Foucault or Deluze. My goal is to set up resources for my school so that when I’m gone, if someone else comes along who also wants to do national circuit debate that they can as well. I’m trying to set up team backfiles and documents to help a new kid get started.

Hoden Abdi-Yusef

Hoden Abdi-Yusef
Pflugerville High School
Senior

 

I initially started because I didn’t really know what I wanted to get into in high school. I was really confused what route to take—everyone had seemed to take something. Eventually I met with the debate teacher, and I thought I really liked research and eventually she pushed me to LD. My parents are really supportive of debate. They find that it functions as an outlet for anything I feel really passionate about. They see how it directs my energy toward that. We do a lot of funding at school, on our own raising money. The Access Debate money is super helpful. Our school as a whole runs tournaments sometimes, so they allow us to use that. Usually the family has to pay on top of that. Whenever I go to a tournament, I’ll either talk to my friends outside of round and eventually we continue to speak after that round. We talk about the topic or things outside of debate. If I’m in the cafeteria by myself, we all sort of gravitate to each other. I don’t have a lot of things readily accessible. The prep that I have is just the prep that I do. The drills that I do are on my own, which isn’t as affective. I don’t have the same resources. There are norms in debate that make it super difficult for people with low income to feel accepted in the community. We need to break the idea that people have to spend thousands of dollars just to be okay in debate. In college I want to study engineering and then maybe cognitive science.

Valeria Ruiz

College Academy at Broward College
Junior

My older brother did debate, and I’ve always been more inclined to do things that he does. But the funds are barriers to debate. Pretty much, to be good, you have to have a private coach and the funds to go to as many tournaments as possible. You also need a lot of time to do debate. I don’t have as much time because I’m studying to get more scholarships and am looking for a job now. I am always applying for scholarships. My debate goals are to find an argument that I really like. My mother is a single mother who has always told me, “Don’t let money mean anything to you. Whatever you want to do is possible.” But I’ve seen a lot of changes in our income, and it’s starting to worry me. I’m my mother’s confidante.