At the end of each Spanish debate tournament, Daniel Degollado prompts students with “tambores” – “drumroll, please” – and gets them excited to receive medals and trophies. As a former debater at Highland Park Senior High School, Daniel knows just how much debate awards – and Spanish immersion – mean to students. Daniel was part of our first-ever Spanish debate cohort, and five years later, he’s returned to us to give back to current debaters. Daniel volunteers as the emcee for our Spanish debate tournaments, increasing the level of immersion by helping us run the entire event, including the rounds, judging, and awards in Spanish.
Daniel was reunited with his former coach, Paula Boe, who has continued to lead the team at Highland Park at our last tournament. Check out their conversation in the judges’ lounge!
What got you interested in Spanish Debate?
Daniel: At the beginning, I was in my sophomore year of high school and thought I needed to do some extracurriculars. I also love speaking Spanish. It’s one of my passions. So I figured, “let’s try it”.
Paula: I got started as the advisor because the students asked me, “Will you coach it so we can participate?” We had a really good experience at our first tournament. It’s just grown from there. I do it for the students and for the opportunity it allows them.
What did you get out of Spanish Debate?
Daniel: It helped me a lot to have it in my resume. It helped me get to Augsburg University.
Paula: During Daniel’s first debate, he said to me: “Miss Boe. I’m making a goal. I’m going to participate in debate for 3 years, go to Augsburg, and I’m help make the debate program better.” And here he is at Augsburg, making debate better by volunteering. It makes me want to cry! I’m so proud of the fact that he set a goal and stuck to it. I had a tiny part in that, but I’m proud of that part of being the advisor and adult in the room.
Daniel: Ms. Boe says, “Oh, I just did a little bit,” but to be honest, the students know Ms. Boe believes in us. She brings energy to the students that tells them, “You can do this. Let’s not give up.”
What should more people know about Spanish Debate?
Paula: That it’s awesome. Students take time to study their evidence and practice their speaking skills. They enjoy the interaction with students at other schools. But it can be challenging, and competitive, and it’s not easy. As a teacher, I see it builds confidence and a sense of pride. When a student wins a debate and says, “I’m so proud of myself,” that’s the moment you think: that’s why we do it.
Daniel: I would say the same thing. It’s fun, yet it’s difficult if you want to do it right. You can’t come to the first debate and think, “I got this.” You learn through the experience. But it’s very fun.
Paula: I tell my students, “I don’t think I could do what you’re doing.” It’s so amazing to watch what they can do with their language, their arguments, and themselves.
If you’re fluent in Spanish like Daniel, we’d love to see you at our Spanish Debate tournaments! Check out our ongoing tournament schedule to connect with our students through volunteering.