There is no debate for Rose Reilly when it comes to the importance of being a part of the Dexter Debate Team. The Dreadnaughts have been very successful over the years in the debate room and Reilly sees the amazing benefits both short term and long term for her and her teammates.
“Hands down, debate has been one of the most impactful education experiences I have had in high school,” she says. “Debate has helped me to develop my worldview. It has taught me how to be a better writer and speaker. Most importantly, debate taught me that I am capable of far more than I could have ever imagined.
“Debate broadened my horizons by opening up very tangible opportunities and by showing me the real power my voice has. This has given me the confidence to pursue things I would not have previously felt prepared for.”
Now that’s what you call a very convincing argument.
The Dexter Debate team competes in Public Forum debate, a form of high school debate that is designed to be judged by a citizen who does not need to be familiar with the topic in any way. The Dexter team meets two to three times a week depending on the level of participation (novice-twice a week, varsity-three times a week). Their tournaments take place on Saturdays and they are all-day affairs that consist of four to five preliminary rounds and then quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.
The number of rounds depends on the size of the tournament.
MAIN PHOTO: Rose Reilly (left) and her debate partner (MacKenzie Gabriel-Lazette) at last year’s Tournament of Champions.
“Most of our practices focus on learning about the topic, writing cases, doing practice rounds, creating responses to arguments and working on improving our delivery of speeches,” Reilly says. “Students will help one another with most of these tasks. Coaches and older students will watch practice rounds and give feedback.”
The Dexter team has had incredible success, including last year when they qualified for Silver Tournament of Champions , one of the most competitive tournaments in the nation. Tournament of Champions (TOC) is a national high school debate tournament held at the University of Kentucky every year on the last weekend in April. It is considered to be the national championship of the “National Circuit.”
“To even qualify for and attend TOC was a true honor,” Reilly said. “It also offered us an opportunity to explore debate at a higher level that is not typically seen on the state level, so being challenged in that way was really fun. It has also has been wonderful to see our younger debaters develop into really exceptional competitors; witnessing their successes have been highlights too.”
And it’s that mentoring and encouragement that has kept Dexter at the top of its game in the debate room.
“I think our success really goes back to ‘value of community’ we have on our team,” Reilly says. “There is an expectation that experienced members of the team will assist in the coaching and mentoring of younger members. Members are all expected to help other members of the team through sharing of research, testing arguments on one another, and generally being an active participant of the constantly evolving discussions we are having on the topic.”
Rose, the daughter of Lisa Marren and Robert Reilly, is one of those students who takes full advantage of everything high school has to offer. She is an outstanding student – her GPA is 4.4 – and is president of the National Honor Society, is a member of Forensics (Speech Activities) and the SNAP Club (she volunteers in the WISD classrooms at DHS), and plays viola in Chamber Orchestra.
She became interested in the debate team before she even got to high school.
“I have decided to stick around and make debate such a large part of my high school career because of the community atmosphere of the team,” she says. “As the years have gone by, members graduate and new members join, but the mentality that we are together in our goals to become better communicators and the support we create for one another on the path to achieving that goal has remained the same.”
Reilly also really loves the activity of debate itself.
“The mental construction of the worlds we create with words and ideas and the corresponding disproving of our opponents world is something that is so fascinating and exciting to me,” she says. “I like how you can never be done refining the skills that debate teaches and improving the arguments you are making. There is constantly something to improve upon.”
She says she also enjoys the lessons of debate and how it creates a space for the teaching of empowerment through quality communication.
“It is so beautiful to see students that came into our program as early as seventh grade develop into young people that can express themselves in a clear and concise manner on topics that most adults don’t know much about,” she says. “To be able to have a helping hand in their process towards becoming better communicators is really rewarding.”