Colchester High School debaters Summer Colley and Lauren Hutchings are the only two Chittenden County students to make the cut for the National Forensic League’s National Speech and Debate Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., this year, if only they can get there.
The duo have been debating partners since their freshman year on the CHS Debate Team and placed third at the Vermont State competition in Montpelier on March 11. That top three placing along with placing at the National Qualifier in Oneonta, N.Y., means they are eligible to compete at the national competition from June 16-21.
But there’s a catch.
Like most small extracurricular teams, the CHS Debate team — 12 strong this year — has no funding. The trip to Alabama for Colley, Hutchings, two chaperones and Coach Bob Hall is estimated to cost $6,000.
“This is a challenging amount to raise with only two families involved,” reads a fundraising letter the team sent out earlier this month.
By Tuesday this week, Colley announced that they have raised $5,000 so far and are looking for $1,000 more in time for their mid-June trip.
“I definitely think that going to nationals will expand my horizons,” said Hutchings, a friend and lacrosse teammate of Colley’s. “The competition there is going to be so much more challenging than in the small state of Vermont. I also think that it will be a great experience getting to meet some of the nation’s most promising students. I hope that the experience will help me grow as a debater and as a student overall.”
Coach Hall, a 10-year resident of Colchester and former debater himself, agrees with Hutchings, adding, “Debate is one of the best things you can do. It made me a better researcher and writer. The critical thinking required is really valuable. To know both sides and be able to argue both persuasively… There really is no better skill to prepare you for life outside of high school.”
Coach Hall started the debate team three years ago when his son Dylan was a senior at CHS; that was the first year Hutchings and Colley joined the team.
This year, Hall received a coach of the year award for the 2012-13 school year from the Vermont Debate/Forensics League, and his two “pseudo-captains” of the debate team are looking ahead to the national competition.
“He deserves it,” said Colley. “He cares a lot about the team.”
“My overall impression?” Hall said in an interview last week. “They’ve done great. What’s most impressive is that [Colley and Hutchings have] done so well in their junior year, which is the most difficult year in school.”
“It’s like an extra homework assignment,” Colley, a three-season athlete, said. “Luckily, debate ended a month before AP classes began… It is hard to find the time sometimes, but you have to do it if you want to do well. It’s definitely a commitment; even more than some sports I play.”
Both Colley and Hutchings are “over committed,” according to Hall. Colley, almost 17, and Hutchings, 17, are both members of the National Honors Society, AP students, play lacrosse as well as other sports and are committed to seeing the debate team grow.
Most recently they visited Colchester fourth graders Jada Kinville, Stephanie Trepanier and Bella Seissen to talk about the debate team at CHS.
“These three girls heard about us qualifying for nationals and were very excited about it,” explained Hutchings. “Their teacher told us she found them making pro and con lists during recess… So, my partner and I visited with them… They [are] very smart young girls.”
Editor’s Note: To help the CHS Debate Team finalists get to the national competition in Alabama contact Coach Hall at 264-5710 or HallB@csdvt.org. Or send checks payable to CHS Debate to Colchester High School, 131 Laker Lane, Colchester, VT 05446. To learn more about the National Forensic League visit: www.nationalforensicleague.org.