Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Desmond Crayton, Director of Boys Town North Florida's Family Home Program, wanted to normalize the virtual learning experience for the youth on campus by offering extra-curricular activities after the school day. Desmond wanted to provide something unique, yet challenging, as an outlet for youth to partake in where they could learn and have fun.
“Our kids are talented and a part of our role is to bring that talent they possess to the forefront," said Desmond. With that in mind, Desmond proposed the idea of having a debate team.
Since Fall of 2020, residents in the Family Home Program have been attending weekly volunteer-led afterschool programs as a fun, extracurricular experience to offset the impact in their own lives from COVID-19. The debate club met each Tuesday afternoon at ART Town and would participate in mock-debates.
Nicole Sandoval, President of the Florida State Debate Team, volunteered her time to coach the team and teach students about participating in debate.
Boys Town Kids Debate“Debate has given me immense opportunities, allowing me to grow and learn in ways I never would have," said Nicole. “I know that debate opens doors for students, and I was fortunate enough to have the resources in school to complete regularly. Now, I want to use my experience and pass along the benefits of debate to students who would not have access to it otherwise."
After working closely with the debate students for several months, Nicole suggested hosting an internal tournament to further allow the participants to understand the structure and enjoyment that debate provides.
On Saturday, May 8, 2021, Boys Town North Florida's Family Home Program hosted their first ever debate tournament at ART Town. Seven students participated in the tournament. Students were paired against one another to engage in timed and judged rounds with topics varying from “Does technology do more harm than good?" to “Should uniforms be required in schools?" and “Should standardized testing be abolished?" Rounds lasted between 10 to 35 minutes as the debaters prepared and presented their arguments. The tournament consisted of five rounds, one of which was the finale between the two highest-rated contestants.
Boys Town Kids DebateJudges were asked to unbiasedly rate the debater's performances with a few criteria in mind: presentation, persuasion, rebuttal, cross-examination questioning, and closing statements. Upon judges' decisions on highest ranking debaters, three individual top placers were selected.
All participants were awarded a certificate for participating in the debate and members had lunch with Desmond where they each received a gift bag.
Ruby, a youth at Boys Town North Florida who participated on the debate team said, “I loved debate because it helped me open up and get out of my shell. It helped me realize I would enjoy being a lawyer one day."
Boys Town North Florida looks forward to hosting more debate functions in the upcoming future and plans to challenge other Boys Town sites to form their own debate teams as well.