Debate Club vs Covid-19

Simone Hersh

Times are changing, but The Ralston Valley High School debate club is changing to make the best of the new circumstances. Formed in 2019, debate club provides a way for students to interact with like minded peers and discuss as well as expand their viewpoints of current events. However, due to the consequences of the coronavirus, the club has had to adapt to the complications of the pandemic, as well as adjust their expectations for both the present and future. 

The debate club has offered opportunities for students to become more involved with extracurricular activities, meet new people, increase their public speaking abilities, and so much more. Anna Posci,  a senior and co-president of the debate club said, “It’s necessary to discuss important topics, it’s a skill everyone needs to have in life.” 

Posci and fellow senior and co-president, Victoria Kubaki, both have a passion for debate and wanted to discuss current events with other students. When starting the club, they hoped to build a community of well spoken students who could take a stance on an issue and be able to support it. “It’s necessary to discuss important topics, it’s a skill everyone needs to have in life,” said  Posci. 

Both leaders want to create an inclusive environment for any student to explore that part of themselves. “Starting something new can be so intimidating, but debate is a really inclusive club. You don’t have to be good at debate. That’s something that comes when you keep practicing. We have both new members and experienced members, but you don’t need any prior knowledge, we’ll accept you and guide you to becoming an experienced member.”

Despite all their hard work to get the club up and running, Posci and Kubaki have been struggling during the recent pandemic. After school went remote last spring, debate tried doing their meetings over Zoom, but not every member liked the new format. Jana Deppe, a member of the club last year said, “Having meetings online was a bit different. It was less social since we couldn’t be in each other’s presence or talk as normal people.” 

A lack of interest and a decrease in membership followed the online meetings. It was time to change tactics. 

“Meetings have become much more casual,” said Kubaki.  “They are primarily discussions now, rather than a structured debate. We still keep up with current events, but it has become less of a club and more a group of people who like to discuss politics.” 

Kubaki and Posci also changed the format of their meetings. Rather than hold a zoom conference, they now meet in the school parking lot on Thursday afternoons. Everyone wears masks and are socially distanced, plus any snacks that are distributed must be handled with a napkin. 

Now that school has reopened, the club will be moving back to the classroom, and is hoping to get things back to normal. “I honestly think the club will be smaller as a result of the pandemic,” said  Kubaki. “Less people are available to come to meetings since only half the kids are in school each day, and so many are online. Attendance has been really down, but we’re still having fun!”

As for the future of the club, both members would like to see it expand, but think its growth will be slowed due to the coronavirus outbreak. “I think we are going to have more online options. For online learners or people from a different school who want to join our club, they can zoom in and participate that way,” said Posci. 

Both Kubaki and Posci had hopes of competing this year, but realized it wouldn’t be feasible during this time. “I think that in the future, the next president of the club will hopefully be able to figure out the logistics of how to compete, and that’s something we can expand to. For those who are really serious about debate and want to have an opportunity to use it competitively, they will have that opportunity in the future,” said Posci. 

Kubaki plans to pass her leadership to another experienced member who has shown a lot of effort. Specifically in mind is junior Luciano Martingano. 

“I joined debate club because I was looking for a group to hang out with and enjoy discussion of current events.” Although he believes the pandemic has made club meetings harder, Martingano still thinks it’s fun and plans to lead a strong club through the future so members can gain the same benefits he has. 

“It’s really helped me with public speaking. Even with projects in schools, I’ve noticed my presentations have gotten better.” For the future, he hopes to expand the club and do more than just hold meetings or have discussions. “I want to compete. I think that would be really fun to do.”