“Think harder, study better,” Spanish debate team brings new opportunities to students of South


Hazel McKinney

A Spanish debate team meeting. Meetings are held every Wednesday in Profe Willette’s classroom, room 317. “People should join, we only have three people right now,” said junior Leslie Ponce Leon on the club.

Hazel McKinney, Staff Writer

There is a new and exciting opportunity at South for students who speak Spanish as their first language. The Spanish debate team is a brand new extracurricular activity at South and one of the first in a growing movement started by Augsburg College. “Profe Arias [Ortiz] and I were approached by the coordinator for urban debate at Augsburg and he asked if we would serve as the coaches,” said Sheila Willette, a Spanish teacher at South. “We said ‘sure why not’ so we are just giving it a stab to see if we can get it up and running.”

The program is set up almost exactly like the English debate. “The arguments are set up in such a way that there is a pro and a con and that’s similar to the English debate…it follows the same format they just don’t have the same theme,” said Willette. “Genetic modification is our theme, [we will] stay with the same theme throughout the whole season.”

The meetings are held every Wednesday in Willette’s room. “There are only three tournaments and one is here, one is at Highland High School in Saint Paul, and one is at Roosevelt,” said Willette. “We compete against middle schools as well, one of the more established teams is Anwatin.”

Similar to it’s English counterpart, being apart of the team can give you access to scholarships. “Ideally if kids do it for two years then they can qualify for a full scholarship to Augsburg,” said Willette. “They have to meet certain criteria, they have to have a 3.25 GPA, good attendance, they have to be Pell Grant eligible…they have to have an ACT of 20 or higher…and then they have to debate for two years at a partner high school…we are considered a partner high school.”

Willette believes the experience can help students in their academic pursuits. “The design of the program is to get kids attached to an activity in school that keeps them in school that keeps them on an academic path and that has them thinking about their post secondary lives,” said Willette.

To the students involved this activity it is fun community builder. “I would recommend this program to Spanish speakers who want to join debate but can’t because of the language barrier and it’s a great way to just get together as a community and do something,” said junior Leslie Ponce Leon, a student who has joined the team. “People should join, we only have three people right now.”

Everyone involved is very excited for the possibilities for the future of the program.“The activity itself just makes you think harder, study better, and just become more well rounded so I think it’s an excellent opportunity for students,” said Willette.