The pure passion of the debate team has led them to become champions


Furiously researching and rapidly reasoning with each other, senior Isabel Varghese and her debate team rationally consider the opposing argument. Surrounded by palpable tension, the team eagerly works together to beat the competitive Rockford debate team. With all sides of their statement reviewed and examined, Isabel and her team launch their closing statement.

As the winner is announced, the team’s stony faces of concentration transform into pure smiles and radiate happiness; FHC’s debate team had done it again. Week after week of this constant triumph brought the team to their coveted success: placing at the Metro League debate tournament.

“Debate is an incredible activity for teaching critical thinking,” coach Pamela Medford-Conley said. “It is also very empowering for those who participate by teaching skills of self-advocacy, public speaking, research, and team building. I am proud of the hard work they put in on research and improving their arguments.”

The teams were faced with quite a mouthful of a topic to argue at the tournament: “The US federal government should substantially increase its funding/regulation in primary/secondary education.” Starting from the summer, each member extensively researched to develop positions. By the time of the tournament, the debaters had accumulated hundreds of hours of preparation.

“Once school started, we’d meet up twice a week,” Isabel said. “But actually, most of the work was done by ourselves at home. We all would gather our evidence, research our cases, and so on.”

All the hard work paid off for the team, as they exited the tournament with commendable results. The novice team placed second overall, while the varsity team placed third. Additionally, sophomores Annabel Varghese and Akansha Das, juniors Eli Logan and James Aidala, and Isabel all placed individually as speakers.

“I think it’s really helped my speaking skills,” Eli said. “Even though it’s only been a few short weeks, after debate, I noticed that I’ve been able to speak a lot better. And, I’ve become closer with people on the debate team, especially my partner James.”

Similar to Eli, Isabel also got to know her team very well during the debate season. What started as serious team practices evolved into friendships and often bantering conversations involving politics and beyond.

“We’re a very quirky bunch,” Isabel said. “We’re all from different backgrounds; the amount of diversity between our team itself is amazing. So when we get together, we sometimes have really intense debate about the most nonsensical stuff. We’ve grown a lot closer since the beginning of the year.”

Unfortunately, many students at FHC are unaware of the debate team, their immense hard work, as well as their monumental success. The team is hoping that this outcome will put them out there and allow them to be recognized for their passion and triumph.

“There was a moment of speculation of whether the team would exist this year or not,” Isabel said. “I think that to show everyone that we are significant within the school was incredible. Especially considering all the work that the novice and varsity teams put in, it was amazing to see how well we did.”

Even though the team reached their goal, their journey is far from over. This success has only motivated them to continue to improve and succeed. Hopefully, the team will be able to further improve in their upcoming tournaments.

“I do think placing at Metro League does help build confidence and affirm that the hard work the team has put in is effective,” Medford-Conley said. “They are working even harder now as they prep for our next tournament at MSU. The competition there will be more challenging, and the pool of debaters will be much larger including schools from out-of-state teams.”

As the debate team closes this chapter of their story and opens the next one, they look forward to their future success and are ready to embrace the next challenge. This triumphant start to the year puts them on a similar path for the rest of the season.

“As captain, this experience really showed me how talented the individuals at FHC are,” Isabel said. “It shows me what my team is capable of and that there is significance to the work that we are putting in. It makes me so proud to see how my team has grown since the moment we started.”