When she was 13, Liz Stiras was walking through the hallway at school and saw a debate recruitment poster. She shrugged and said, “I have nothing to do after school today.” Once she arrived at her first debate practice, she fell in love. She never could have imagined what other surprises debate would bring into her life! Liz looks back at her experience, how it shaped her career, and what motivates her to give back:
After falling in love with debate in high school, Liz spent time in college coaching and judging debate. She went on to coach debate for Wayzata and Edina.
She continues to give back by judging at Minnesota Urban Debate League tournaments. Because she first gained experience working with high school and college students, seeing middle schoolers debate was a big surprise!
“I first started judging at a middle school tournament in South Minneapolis. The kids were younger than I’m used to. I was seeing 12 year olds debate! It was just so interesting, and such a good age to help shape people and give them the guidance they’ll use the rest of their lives. There’s just such an open-mindedness with younger kids. They try so hard the whole time. They take really well to instruction and have a positive attitude,” Liz says. “Debate asks a lot of us on a personal and an academic level, and students of very young ages are rising to that challenge”.
Liz kept judging middle school debaters at our all-virtual Minnesota Debate and Advocacy Workshop this summer and found herself surprised by how well the virtual format works.
“I really liked it,” says Liz. “It made it much more convenient for me because I could fit it into a workday from home! I was also really impressed by how well the students were managing. They’re so self sufficient.” She also noted that she found value in listening to students talk about the criminal justice topic. “This is serving a lot of purposes, not just to them as students, but also as citizens.”
Liz finds herself continuing to use lessons from debate as the Marketing & Communications officer at Great River Greening, an environmental nonprofit. “One thing I’ve taken from debate is how to stay calm under pressure,” Liz explains. “At a nonprofit, I’m wearing 10 different hats on every different week with what I need to be in charge of. If I hadn’t done debate, I’d probably be quite a bit more stressed than I am. Debate taught me how to have an inner calm about work and manage my time, trusting that everything will eventually get done. I also take a ridiculous amount of notes in every meeting!”
Both skills and relationships Liz built in debate remain with her. “There are people who judged me in 9th grade that I’m still friends with! It’s amazing how long my friendships and professional relationships have lasted in debate. It’s just had such a positive impact on my life in a lot of ways, and it’s all because I saw a poster in the hallway that one day.”
Become a virtual volunteer like Liz. Sign up to judge weekend debates this fall! No experience? No problem. We’ll train you. Choose as many or few rounds work for your schedule.