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Small But Mighty: HT's Debate Team

Holy Trinity's Debate Team is small but mighty. Originally launched in the fall of 2006, the team was re-invigorated by Natalie Nieves ‘18 in the fall of 2015. “In middle school, I was really excited about competing in debate in high school because I always loved to argue,” says Natalie. “When I found out there wasn’t a debate team at Holy Trinity, I was determined to start one again.”

At her second-ever tournament, Natalie won overall First Place and the first place Speaker Award in the Novice Lincoln-Douglas debate category at Carl Sandburg High School. This small—currently three students—team is growing in prominence on campus and in the debate circle.

The team competes twice a month from September to April in the Chicago Catholic Forensics League. They specialize in Lincoln-Douglas debate, focusing on the same topic for two months at a time. “I appreciate the chance to challenge yourself,” says team member Dejanae Philips ‘19, “as you are required to argue both sides. I have become a way stronger writer and speaker than I ever was before.”

Teammate Ryan Sarau-Young ‘21 agrees. “What I enjoy the most about debate is the research, but I what I most value is the ability to come up with good rebuttals and to convince the judges.”

“What’s kept me going is the thrill of competition and the intellectual challenge it brings,” says Natalie. That’s not to say it’s always been easy. Holy Trinity is typically the only school from Chicago and the smallest school that competes in tournaments. Tournaments can range from dozens to hundreds of competitors, and many schools’ teams are comprised of a dozen to 30 students. “Although it’s hard, it’s still something I love and you shouldn’t give up something that’s hard or when you don’t win. It teaches you discipline, to keep working hard until you achieve your goal.”

Looking back, Natalie says despite the time-commitment that came with debate, she’d do it all over again. “As I’m preparing to head to Wellesley College this fall, I really appreciate the skills I’ve learned through debate. Research, writing, note-taking and debating are all useful skills to excelling in the classroom and preparing for college. I’m reading and writing college-level material as well.”