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Team Spotlight: Sojourner Truth Academy

STA students
Kamarah & Rafael spoke to us about their experience in debate.

The 2020-2021 Middle School debate season has officially ended! Our community has come together to deliver an amazing middle school season this year, virtually, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In light of the ongoing Derek Chauvin trial, we must continue the conversation about this year’s middle school debate topic – police reform. Coaches Kate Olson and Ben Babcock guided their debaters at Sojourner Truth Academy through the virtual season, teaching them the art of debate and important information about police reform. Last week, we got the opportunity to hear from two of Sojourner Truth’s own, Kamarah and Rafael, and hear what they had to say about debate and their thoughts about police reform. Here’s what they had to say:


Kamarah, A 6th grader at Sojourner Truth Academy.
Kamarah is a 6th grader at Sojourner Truth Academy! This year was her first year competing in debate!

How long have you participated in debate?

“This is my first year.”

How do you like debate so far?

“I think it’s good for me! The topic is really what made me join debate because I think it’s a good topic to talk about. The judges and everyone has so much grace, whether you lose or you win, there’s no right or wrong answers in debate.”

What is your opinion on this year’s topic?

“I love it! It shouldn’t just be a topic in debate, but should be something that is talked about everywhere. I think it’s great that they picked that topic. I like that when I do the negative or the affirmative, I am actually put into both scenarios and can see what people are thinking, from not only what I think about it, but also their point of view. Whoever came up with this topic is outstanding!”

What is the affirmative case about?

“Our affirmative case is about banning all non-tactical police for carrying or holding firearms. To sum it up: it’s really just giving examples and reasons why and what will happen, what is happening right now — bringing it to the past, the present. It is showing you what could happen if we did this, what did happen when we tried this, and is really giving reasons and telling you why banning all non-tactical police is what should happen. I think if we have more of this in the world in general, it would make our society better… 

What inspires you when you write for debate?

I was inspired by what I have seen in the news, and what has been happening not just with police in general, but police brutality. I came up with my own reasons why, which I think I have argued very well in many debates, and I think that’s really what has inspired me. Also, I have the most wonderful teammate. If I mess up, she’s there. My school, my teachers, my teammates, my coaches, all inspire me to not only see it from the affirmative side but also the negative side point of view; “they think this, because of this.” You never know the backstory of why anybody does anything. You have to listen to your own voice instead of everybody else’s.”

What have you learned through debate?

“Debate has helped me to engage in everything. When I read things, I am able to see the problems that I didn’t see before I joined debate. I also have learned to look from everybody else’s point of view, because if you’re the affirmative, you have to look from the negative, so that you can anticipate what they are going to ask you. You have to think ahead of time, which has helped me to see things more clearly than before.

What do you want people to know about you?

“Before I did debate, I felt like I was this horrible person because I didn’t think ahead of time or before I acted. After doing debate, it has helped me to think before I act and also to be kinder. When you debate, you don’t always meet nice people because some people are really competitive, but when you do it is a great experience. I also want everybody to know that, now, I am the best 6th grader you could ever meet. Everybody that I will ever meet or pass by will always get good vibes from me.”

Rafael, an 8th grader at Sojourner Truth Academy
Rafael is an 8th grader at Sojourner Truth Academy! He just wrapped up his 2nd year competing in debate.

How long have you participated in debate?

“I started last year, in 7th grade.”

What are some of the differences between in-person and virtual debate?

“Really just the technical difficulties. Sometimes people will lag out, which is really disappointing because you really want to finish the debate. It’s hard to debate virtually. The excitement of being in person is missing.”

What has made you keep wanting to do debate throughout the pandemic?

“Debate really helps me to speak out, practice my speaking skills, and take my mind off of other things. It gives me something to do when there isn’t much else we can do.”

What do you think about this year’s debate topic?

“I think they chose a really good topic. It’s good to talk about wanting to ban guns, and whether we should or not because of the things currently going on. I think it’s a good topic to talk about.”

What is the most challenging part of debate?

“The most challenging part of debate is running into really, really good debaters. They’re the debaters that really study and take the time to read everything. It’s really challenging to go up against those debaters.”

How do you overcome those challenges?

“I just try as hard as I can to knock their stuff down and make my arguments clear. I try as best I can and if I end up not winning, they were really good debaters and it was a good challenge.”

What is your affirmative case about?

“The affirmative case is about trying to ban all guns and take away guns from police officers. We look at other countries and their gun violence. The police brutality happening, and people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor inspired me to think and write cases about things that have been going on.”

What do you think more people should know more about this case?

“People should know more about the things that are happening with police brutality, and think of possible solutions to solve those problems.”

What have you learned since starting debate?

“I have really learned to speak out and become a better speaker. Before debate, I was really nervous and didn’t speak a lot, so it was a challenge for me, but I took it on and became a better speaker.”


Our middle school debate season has officially come to a close, however, we still need virtual judges for this spring! Fluent in Spanish? Sign up to be a virtual judge during our Spanish Debate League this spring at our sign-up page!