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Debate Camp Suits Up High School Competitors

UNLV's top-ranked debate program helps local teens get over their fear of public speaking and prepare for national competitions.

Campus News  |  Aug 3, 2015  |  By Afsha Bawany
High School students practice debate skills

Clark County High School students practice debate skills during a session of the Rebel Debate Institute. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

“Public speaking is the number one fear in America. It outweighs the fear of death, which doesn’t make much sense but it’s a real thing,” said Jacob Thompson, coach for UNLV’s Sanford I. Berman Debate Forum.

That’s why Thompson and the UNLV debate team spent this summer helping Clark County School District high school students overcome their fear of public speaking. About 25 students participated in the Rebel Debate Institute, a three-week camp that gives students an opportunity to enhance students’ research and critical thinking skills. It concluded Aug. 2.

The Rebel Debate Institute helped the students prepare for National Speech & Debate Association events. This year, the association’s policy topic is whether the U.S. government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance programs. At camp, the students practiced arguing and rebutting the topic under the mentorship of current UNLV debate team members and team alumni, including Christian Bato and Michael Eisenstadt.

“Students are learning how to become effective public advocates to speak out in public for things they believe in and to be effective agents of change,” Thompson said.Nancy Rapoport

The students also heard from Nancy Rapoport, UNLV’s acting executive vice president & provost and a Boyd School of Law professor. She talked about how her own high school debate experience helped her to embrace her talents. She thought she wanted to be a doctor but soon realized a legal career was calling. “Believe in your smarts,” Rapoport said.

Learn more about UNLV’s programs on the debate team website.