Manual Arts Debate Team On The Rise


Yozabeth Navarrete, Reporter

The Cambridge Union Society was founded in 1815 and is the oldest continually operating debating society in the world. Although the Manual Arts debate team was only formed about five years ago, they are quickly making a name for themselves in the world of competitive debate.

Juniors Lonnell Schuler and Adan Lepe placed third in the debate competition that took place at East Valley High School last week. The victory is a sign that the program is on the rise.

Manual Arts is a member of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Debate League which includes 24 high schools from around the city. The competition is tough, but under the direction of coach Cindy Ok and Jonathan Choperena, the team is always prepared.  When Ok thinks of the debate team she does not think of it as another elective class where students learn, she looks at it as and opportunity for students to gain a different set of skills that will help them later in life. “We think of students not just as debaters but as learners in life,” said Ok. Ok believes that there has to be a greater focus on skills than on knowledge. “We’re looking at critical thinking and problem solving,” explained Ok.

This year the team is focusing mainly on China and climate change. Last year, the debate team focused on surveillance and immigration.

Mary Marroquin and Jaqueline Moreno, both juniors, first found out about debate their freshman year. They decided to join because they thought it was cool and could help them gain many useful skills and improve their vocabulary.

Even though Marroquin has been on the team for three years now,  she says she still gets nervous all the time especially if there are a lot of people watching the competition. “A whole room of debaters just go and watch you debate,” said Marroquin. “It’s nerve wracking.” Despite her nervousness, she enjoys meeting new people and going to the tournaments.

In order to be a successful debater, preparation is key. Moreno likes to prepare for the tournaments by reviewing and checking if she understands the topic well enough to argue her point. She relies heavily on the support of her teammates which she thinks of as an extended part of her family. “We just start talking and sharing personal experiences about family,” stated Moreno. “We just built this relationship that resembles a family.”

Students who are in the debate team admire their coach who pushes them to do better. They value the relationships they have made with their classmates and hope to make more along the way. They will continue to prepare for tournaments this year, and hope that more Manual Arts students are able to support the team.