Resurrecting debate

Published 3:12 pm Thursday, March 24, 2016

PHS debate team gathers for a photo to commemorate their successful debate season this school year. (Contributed)

PHS debate team gathers for a photo to commemorate their successful debate season this school year. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Presenting is so much easier for me since I’ve had debate. We were all getting ready to present in a class—and I was confident. I knew I could do it,” said Luci Smitherman.

As PHS Debate Coach, Tonya Hatch and I chatted before our recent Pelham City Schools Communication and Media Arts Academy Advisory Board meeting began, we both fell silent as we overheard this comment that one of Hatch’s debaters made to Ryleigh Chambers. Chambers, who serves with both Smitherman and Bailey Gerlinger representing students on the board, nodded in agreement.

“That’s what I like to hear,” Hatch said smiling.

After a hiatus from having a debate class at PHS, Hatch has worked hard to resurrect debate class and strengthen the team. Hatch, who served as coach for four years before stepping away to start the PHS chapter of the National English Honor Society and assist with student government, has coached PHS Debate through a successful season—and the team is excited to compete again next year.

“We competed in three tournaments followed by District. Luci Smitherman and Max Hall were eloquent at the Deep South District Debate tournament in Montgomery,” said Hatch. “While they did not break to the finals, they represented PHS beautifully. I am so proud of how all of the PHS Debate team has grown this year!”

Beyond competition, training as debaters has helped Hatch’s team acquire and strengthen their written and verbal skills. Madison Averhart, who takes both creative writing and debate, appreciates how debate has strengthened her writing skills.

“I love to write and through debate, I’ve realized that having statistics in my arguments makes my case one hundred times better,” said Averhart.

Another student of both creative writing and debate, PHS freshman Tramaine Moore, was nervous before her debate competition.

“Debate competition was the most fun I’ve had so far this school year,” said Moore. “I felt that I truly belonged and I had fun.”

Hatch’s PHS debaters, and all Communication and Media Arts Academy students, are acquiring real-world skills essential for a successful future.