Student-run debate camp to implement changes

    A student speaks in front of a class at Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp. Photo by Julia Lee.

    A student participant speaks at a podium in front of a class at Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp. The camp is geared towards incoming sixth to tenth graders and aims to improve students’ skill in public speaking and debate. “A lot of the middle scholars were able to bring their skills together and at the end of the week they were able to write better and deliver speeches in a more effective manner than when we first saw them,” said sophomore Anish Haris, one of last year’s camp counselors. Photo by Julia Lee.

    Hoping to encourage student participation in speech and debate, Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp organizers will modify this year’s camp curriculum.

    Offering classes in public speaking, debate, impromptu speech and advanced Lincoln-Douglas style debate, the camp is undergoing modifications to its curriculum to increase the range of material covered.

    “We’re adjusting it in order to allow for a more activities-based curriculum rather than a lecture-based one,” said junior Noa Braun, the camp’s executive director. “We are changing the curriculum for the advance lanes in both speech and debate in order to increase the breadth of materials that will be covered. While normal lane’s speech will be working on public speaking, the advanced lanes will be working on both public speaking and competitive speech events that many competitive high school students participate in.”

    Organizers are also planning to supplement the curriculum with the addition of guest speakers from Stanford University.

    “They [public speakers] tend to come for anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour to discuss specific issues and their experiences with that topic,” Braun said. “The reason we encourage public speakers to come to the camp is that we think students won’t get out as much if it’s solely a lecture based camp and having guest speakers allows us to mix it up and make the content more interesting and personalized”

    According to Braun, the directors aim to invite topic-oriented speakers.

    “In past years we’ve had guest speakers, such as  [Supt.] Kevin Skelly, once per session,” Braun said. “This year what we’re trying to do is have more focused guest speakers; instead of just talking about public speaking and debate in general, they’ll be addressing specific issues such as foreign policy or their previous experiences in the Palo Alto debate community. The reason that we’re looking towards Stanford professors this year as guest speakers is because the camp started to gain public interest within our community and with that public interest came a greater influx of people who were willing to help out with the camp via speaking to the students.”

    The Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp is an annual summer camp located at Palo Alto High School that is targeted towards incoming sixth through tenth graders in the Bay Area. Normally attracting around 100 to 120 students each year, the camp is student-run and organized, and the programs are taught by members of the current Paly Speech and Debate team.

    “The camp is run and taught solely by the students from [the] Paly Speech and Debate Team,” senior Julia Lee, a camp director and counselor in previous years, said. “The camp is a fun and meaningful way for kids in the Bay Area to be introduced to speech and debate, mainly because the counselors, who are current debaters and speech members who regularly compete at tournaments, also serve the role of mentor to the students as well.”

    Sophomore Anish Haris, a member of the Debate Team, was a counselor at last year’s debate camp and witnessed the growth that students underwent at the camp.

    “A lot of the middle scholars were able to bring their skills together and at the end of the week they were able to write better and deliver speeches in a more effective manner than when we first saw them,” Haris said.

    Haris, who also participated in the camp while in middle school, reflects positively upon his own personal camp experience.

    “Before I went to the camp I was really shy and I wasn’t able to speak very effectively,” Haris said.  “After I came out [of the camp] I was a lot more confident in my speaking abilities and it [the Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp] also teaches you how to argue effectively and communicate your ideas.

    The camp will run for two separate weeks, one week from June 17 to 21 and another from July 29 to Aug. 2. Both weeks will offer a morning speech session and an afternoon debate session.

    “Our primary goal is attracting as many students as possible and giving them the best and the most positive experience, so as to open the gateway for the young students to pursue speech and debate in middle and high school,” Lee said.

    For more information regarding Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp, go to the camp’s Facebook page or website.

    Previous participants of Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp listen to a lesson taught by members of Palo Alto High School's Speech and Debate Team. The debate camp is student-run and organized, and offers both normal and advance classes in public speaking, debate, impromptu speech and advanced Lincoln-Douglass style debate. "The camp is a fun and meaningful way for kids in the Bay Area to be introduced to speech and debate, mainly because the counselors, who are current debaters and speech members who regularly compete at tournaments, also serve the role of mentor to the students as well," Senior Julia Lee, a camp counselor and organizer in previous years, said. Photo by Julia Lee.

    Previous participants of Palo Alto Speech and Debate Camp listen to a lesson taught by senior Allen Zheng. The camp offers classes in public speaking, debate, impromptu speech and advanced Lincoln-Douglas style debate. “The camp is a fun and meaningful way for kids in the Bay Area to be introduced to speech and debate,” senior Julia Lee, a camp director and counselor in previous years, said. Photo by Julia Lee.