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Spanish Debate Spotlight: Shelley Pacheco

The Anwatin team was the place for Shelley to grow as a leader and as a speaker.

She Served Her School by Starting an All-Star Team. 

Shelley fell in love with debate while competing in the Spanish Debate League at Anwatin Middle School. “Debate was a hobby for me to express who I am. I also love arguing with people, and learning the different topics. It’s also a way to get to know other people and have more connections,” Shelley says.

By the time Shelley was attending her first year of high school, only a national topic policy team was available at Edison. That didn’t dissuade Shelley, who persisted in dreaming up a team.  

Marni Ginther, the Spanish Debate League coach at Edison HS, recalls the moment Shelley and Mirly approached her about beginning a team: “When two students come to you wanting to form a debate team, how can you say no? It seems like way too cool and nerdy of a thing to pass up!” Although Ms. Ginther was new to debate, she was open to any activity which inspires so much passion. “At the high school level, there are moments where you wonder if there is anything that gets students excited. When they do really want to do something, it’s important to let it blossom,” she continues. 

“We decided to talk to the principal, and we soon were able to have a Spanish debate team because of it,” says Shelley.

By bringing Spanish Debate to Edison, Shelley will help her teammates achieve the deeper connections, just like she had at Anwatin. “When I joined Spanish debate, I became more connected with my teammates and my teachers, because they were speaking my native language with me. During school, you don’t really talk in Spanish. It was helpful for me to keep talking my native language, but doing something new with it,” she explains.

Ms. Ginther explains that even though she was new to coaching, she felt more prepared because Shelley & Mirley brought “items from the toolkit” their former coach at Anwatin used: “Those two know what to do. They really help the newer members feel more comfortable. I’ve watched them mature as leaders. It’s one of the things that happens so slowly, until there’s a moment you see your students as a completely different person.

Staying committed to debate also allowed Shelley to achieve her dream of attending college. She received the Augsburg Promise scholarship to study sociology at Augsburg University. “I just know that I want to give back to my community and be a part of change,” Shelley elaborated. “There aren’t many diverse people in the police departments. I want to help people and the government by doing good in the community. My dream job is to be part of the FBI or the CIA. It’s a high goal, but I feel like I can accomplish it if I want to.” 

The Spanish Debate League helped Shelley pursue her dreams. Now, as our organization’s LEAD Fellow, she’s helping even more students access opportunity through debate by judging debate rounds, assisting with programming, and recruiting Spanish debate judges. 

Beyond giving back, Shelley looks forward to reconnecting with other students in the Spanish Debate League: “I can’t wait to see my old coaches and teammates!”

Help make our Spanish Debate program possible for more students like Shirley! 

Become a member of Advocates for Debate, our monthly giving community. Your donation provides year-round programming.