Bulldog debaters win big

Published 10:42 pm Friday, April 7, 2017

More than a dozen King’s Fork High School students have argued their way to a slew of awards in recent weeks and are prepared for more this weekend.

The new debate team at King’s Fork has been steadily increasing its wins this year. The team swept regionals in the Lincoln-Douglas category, won first and second in the policy category and won first as a team. They compete in regionals this Saturday.

This is the first VHSL high school debate team from Suffolk, said King’s Fork teacher and sponsor Todd Gidley. Even so, they are besting students from other schools who have been competing in debate since middle school.

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Gidley said Stuart Jones, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program coordinator, encouraged the formation of the team. Most of the students on the team are IB students.

“They felt King’s Fork needed to academically be competitive outside of school,” Gidley said.

There are four styles of debate, and the Bulldogs compete in three. Lincoln-Douglas is a one-on-one debate. Public forum features teams of two. And Congress includes 30 to 40 students competing at once, introducing and voting on bills similar to the operation of a mock legislature.

Tiffany Imbimbo is one of the leaders of the public forum debaters from King’s Fork. She said the experience has prepared her for real life.

“I really like public forum, because it’s very intense and very high-pressure,” she said. “In real life, not everything has a planning period.”

Imbimbo said debate helps prepare students for dealing with different backgrounds and points of view.

“You got people from a lot of different backgrounds debating on topics that can be touchy for them,” she said. “You can’t just see one-sided, which I think is beneficial to life. There’s not just one side to anything.”

Her partner, Maggie Jackson, said debate is high-pressure but is rewarding.

“It’s kind of rapid-fire,” she said. “If you convince yourself of your argument, it’s really cool.”

Raven John, a sophomore, competes in the Congress category.

“I’ve learned how to take in information on the fly,” she said. “You kind of feel like an actual politician doing this. It’s really fun.”

John said she has always loved debating and that she debates with her dad on a daily basis. Plus, there are other benefits.
“You can get really good scholarships to debate,” she said. “You meet people outside of your school. They have different perspectives. Student congress teaches you how to control your emotions.”

Ron Newsome competes in the Lincoln-Douglas category, where he’s facing off against one other student. But he doesn’t get intimidated.

“I don’t find it scary,” he said. “It’s kind of like having a nice conversation with somebody that’s fairly hyped up a little bit.”

Gidley said the team has featured strong leadership from passionate students.

“When we get on the bus, they’re all business,” he said. “We’ve got some great stuff going on with the kids.”