When it comes to the benefits of debating, South Surrey teen Lucinda Gullison doesn’t mince words.
“It’s helped me so much. Debate’s just led me to everything I have,” Gullison said Friday (Aug. 7).
Hooked on the skill since Grade 6, Gullison, 15, said she’s learned over the years that while many students are interested in learning more about debating, the opportunities to do so are few, with many coming at a steep financial cost.
“I had a really good experience going to a debate camp when I was going into Grade 6, and since then I’ve just loved debate,” she said.
“Now I debate at my school, but I’ve noticed that there are not a lot of places, schools in B.C., that offer debate, actually – which I was surprised about, because everyone I know that I’ve talked to who has done debate just love it and they find it provides such a big advantage to their academic experience.”
In an effort to boost opportunities to explore and participate in debate, Gullison started a non-profit organization this summer, focused on making it accessible to all.
Dubbed Vada Debate – Vada translates to “the honest debate,” she said – it currently offers free online classes for students aged eight to 14.
Conducted via Skype or a similar platform, students ‘attend’ at least one class a week, and can have up to one debate and one private lesson per week as well, according to information online. Topics debated run the gamut, and Gullison said it’s important for students who get involved to be exposed to current events.
The first priority, however, is “public speaking in general and getting confident with speaking on the spot,” she said.
Prior to attending a debate camp at Brentwood College on Vancouver Island, neither of those skills were among Gullison’s strengths.
“I was always kind of scared to do stuff like that in class,” she said. “It helped me so much, especially on expanding thoughts I already had and working under pressure.
“My engagement in class definitely went up after I started debating,” she added.
She also discovered an interest in public policy; as well, that it is advantageous to have fewer strong opinions about things. In debate tournaments, she explained, competitors don’t get to choose their topic, nor what viewpoint they must defend.
Gullison said she is aiming to keep her organization “fun and lighthearted… accessible, no matter what.”
Students who are interested can register for a consultation online, for determination of their interests and level of experience.
She emphasized that her goal is simply to increase accessibility to learning the skill.
“Even if you don’t want to get into the competitive aspect of it, it’s so useful,” she said. “Just for public speaking, any interview you might go to, for self-confidence and even just thinking on the spot.”
For more information or to register, visit the Vada Debate website or email firstname.lastname@example.org