The Scituation

Scituate High School's student newspaper

The Scituation

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Debate Team Reboots at SHS

With new student leadership and a faculty advisor, the Debate Club is back
Debate Team Reboots at SHS

Due to its inconsistency over the past few years, the SHS Debate Club has been a topic of debate itself: Is the club running? Who’s the advisor? When are the meetings? Luckily, we finally have the answers to your questions! 

The last consistent club advisor was SHS math teacher Jonathon Schindler, who was the faculty advisor for four years. The job was passed down to him by SHS history teacher Kristen Emerson when Schindler was fairly new to the school. Not having any debate experience, Schindler said he “wasn’t really sure what the club was all about,” but after two of his students–who were captains of the club at the time–asked him to be advisor, he took on the role. 

Entering the school year of 2022-23, after two debate seasons during the pandemic, Schindler decided to step down as the club’s advisor. Based on the long nights and time-consuming tasks that kept the club running, he knew he wouldn’t be able to put his “best effort” into the club, leading to his decision.

Entering her senior year as one of the captains, SHS 2023 graduate Emma Riedel and her fellow captains tried to piece the Debate Club back together before they graduated in the spring. Originally, Riedel joined the club during her freshman year, and her first season ended right before the COVID-19 pandemic. During her sophomore and junior years, debate took place online, which Riedel described as a “really funny” but “weird” experience; nevertheless, she remained dedicated to the club. After spending more than half of her senior year trying to find an advisor, Riedel and her fellow debate captains finally felt encouraged when SHS English teacher Rachael Sweeney agreed to serve as the advisor. With the joy of having “anything of the debate club left,” the captains started holding meetings to gain new members and rejuvenate the club before the 2023-2024 school year. 

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When the debate team captains graduated and Sweeney relocated to Connecticut, the club was again searching for an advisor this year. Fortunately, a new SHS history teacher, Courtney Riser, agreed to become the new advisor, saying she “couldn’t say no” to the opportunity. Riser acknowledged that “the student enthusiasm is already there,” which contributed to her decision. Like Schindler, Riser wants the club to be student-focused and student-run, only dealing “behind the scenes” as the advisor, completing tasks such as planning meetings, scheduling buses, and getting judges for debates.

Not only does the club have a new advisor, but it also has new captains: Tessa Norton (senior), Jake Linnell (junior), Jane Ryan (junior), and Nicolai Bolkavich (junior). Back up and running, the club held its first meeting on Friday, October 6th, during WINN block in Riser’s room. The club is open to all old and new members, with no prior debate skills needed. 

As Riedel noted, participating in debate provides a “valuable lesson in high school.” In addition to learning public speaking and critical thinking skills, student debaters become more “self-aware” of how they speak and interact with others. After her experience with the debate club at SHS, Riedel feels more confident as a writer and public speaker; she knew she had those skills before, but debating helped her further develop these skills. Since most Scituate students haven’t had the opportunity to debate due to the absence of the club during the pandemic, Riedel acknowledged that it can be “frustrating” as a new leader or member of the club. Still, the growth that is gained from taking part in debate is more than just a school skill–it is a life skill.