The Silicon Valley Urban Debate League’s first Summer Institute was a great success and a tremendous way to launch into the first full season of the SVUDL program. In all, 62 students, the majority with no debate experience, joined us for six intensive days to research, learn, and debate the topics of surveillance and privacy.
SVUDL’s Summer Institute Director, Aaron Fishbone, observed a notable transformation in the students over the course of the week. Encouraged to enroll by parents and teachers, many showed up Monday morning skeptical what they would learn. By Saturday, the raw enthusiasm of students was contagious and it was easy to see many had a genuine excitement and hunger to learn more about debate and a passion to succeed in tournaments.
One of the most inspiring achievements of the institute came from Esther, an incoming freshman at Eastside College Prep, who struggled through a panic attack during her practice round on Friday and almost called it quits. However, she had joined debate precisely to help her get over her anxiety with speaking. With a little help from her lab leaders she made it through that round, and delivered some killer speeches during the Saturday debate rounds.
In the end, students walked away with an experience of what it is like to be part of the speech and debate community. This is only the beginning, but what a beginning: so many thanks to all the staff, coaches, volunteers, and supporters who make breakthroughs like this possible. The Summer Institute provided everyone with an electric energy to kick-off the 2015-16 school year.