Whitehouse Debate Team Grows In Number And Stature
By KELLY GOOCH Staff Writer
WHITEHOUSE -- When Whitehouse High School debate coach Chris Dickson came on board this year, he said his goal was to grow the team and to make it competitive with other East Texas powerhouses.
"I knew I needed to grow it. I had to do that through recruiting efforts and showing students how important what we do is," he said.
Dickson's efforts certainly paid off. The team had five returning students last year, but it has now grown to a team of more than 40.
He attributes the growth to making himself available until 9 p.m., which means students could work around their schedules with other organizations such as band and athletics.
He said it's been a good year overall with a lot of learning experiences and successes.
For instance, the team tried to recruit minority members, and debate helped students academically because several topics correlated with standardized testing objectives, he said. The team also won 12 out of 14 tournaments, and their competition throughout the year helped prepare them for the National Forensic League district meet in Brownsboro. The National Forensic League is different than the University Interscholastic League, known as UIL. That NFL meet resulted in 10 members being invited to nationals in Indianapolis in June with two alternates slated to go as well.
However, their trip hinges on whether they can raise enough money for all members to go. The total trip cost is estimated at $25,000.
Dickson said the school district is supportive and doing everything it can to help. Whitehouse ISD does not use taxpayer dollars to facilitate any out-of-state competition trips, other than registration fees, but campus leaders can decide to assist through activities funding.
So far, the team has $5,700, Dickson said, and it hopes to raise more through a debate-a-thon event, which is scheduled from 4 p.m. May 11 to 4 p.m. May 12. The team is also looking at having a car wash the weekend of May 19.
Meanwhile, Dickson is optimistic things will work out.
"I feel confident that it's all about faith. It's all about believing in yourself. I believe that faith ... means 'I can do something.' Having faith is meaning it will happen," he said.
As for students, they said they are excited that they were invited to nationals and look forward to the competition.
Junior Kingsley Brown is slated to participate in Congress, a form of debate.
"I'm extremely excited that I was able to receive such an award, especially being a junior. ... I'm glad to make such an achievement ...," she said.
"I love to speak. I love to actually present speeches."
She said she's also looking forward to scholarship opportunities and continues to prepare by keeping up with current events.
When asked if she expected this year's success, she said Dickson wanted 10 or more people to qualify, and she felt it was an attainable goal, especially with the amount of talent on the team.
"I definitely think that our team, our coach has been phenomenal this year. He has done his best work to propel our team forward and allow us to achieve goals that we never thought that we could possibly achieve before," Miss Brown said.
"And in the fact that if you look at our stats you know that we have increased the team in such a large amount ... and that we've also doubled the amount of students that we are taking to nationals. That's most definitely an accomplishment that needs to be recognized and needs to be supported as well."
Senior Morgan Bridges, who will participate in policy debate, said it's her first year to do debate, so making it to nationals is "kind of unheard of."
She said she has a good partner and had some help along the way, but it still feels good to qualify.
Senior Taylor Parker said he's honored to qualify and "anxious to raise the money and get there."
"I'm thrilled at the size that it's grown to and the success we've had as a team, and I find it imperative that we get to nationals this year because of the effort we've all put in. It's sort of like we've all got this far for nothing if we don't go," he said.
No matter what happens, Whitehouse ISD Superintendent Daniel DuPree said the district is proud of the students' success.
"We wish them all the best in Indianapolis. I know they've all worked very hard. We are very appreciative of what they've done and how they represent us," he said.
Arjun Rawal (right) improvises a speech in debate class Wednesday at Whitehouse High School. He is one of the students that qualified for the national debate contest. (Staff Photo By Herb Nygren Jr.)