High school students to attend debate camp at UNT for up to a month
DENTON (UNT), Texas — Shelby Pryor researched several summer programs for high school debate students when she decided that she wanted to improve her skills for Grapevine High School’s debate team.
She decided to stay close to home and attend the University of North Texas’ Mean Green Workshops, one of the nation’s largest residential summer camps for high school debaters. This year, 240 students will attend for two to four weeks beginning June 24 (Sunday).
Jason Sykes, Mean Green Workshops director, said that because the workshops are run by high school debate instructors, they give students a head start on preparing for National Forensic League-sanctioned tournaments during the next school year.
“Students are pushing themselves in ways they won’t get the opportunity to do until probably graduate school. It may be the first time that they put in 90 hours of work per week on skill development, speaking and researching debate topics,” said Sykes, associate director of debate at The Hockaday School in Dallas.
After attending two Mean Green Workshops, Pryor qualified for several national tournaments, including the Tournament of Champions, which is considered to be the most prestigious competition for high school debate.
Now a senior political science major at UNT and a student in UNT’s Honors College, Pryor has been a member of the UNT Debate Team for three years and was the team’s president in 2011-12. She began working for the Mean Green Workshops as a staff member the summer before her freshman year at UNT. She will return to the Mean Green Workshops this summer as a small group lab instructor, meeting with her assigned students for up to eight hours a day, Mondays through Fridays, and more hours on the weekends.
“The labs become like debate teams. We teach research skills, argumentation, and deciding on topics for debate, and do many practice sessions,” said Pryor, who represented UNT in the elimination rounds of the National Debate Tournament, the most prestigious tournament for college debaters, earlier this year. “Watching the students grow as debaters is really rewarding.”
Fellow UNT Debate Team member Meghan Overheim, a junior marketing major, said attending the workshops twice in high school, “helped me become super interested in debate.”
“A lot of the research skills and critical thinking that you learn are also necessary in college,” said Overheim, who said she decided to attend when the debate coach at her high school, Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, urged her to go.
UNT junior political science major and Debate Team member Reka Fink traveled all the way from her hometown in Edina, Minn., after her sophomore year of high school. She planned to attend three weeks, but stayed for the whole month.
“The Mean Green Workshops seemed to have very good staff. The lab instructors give you a lot of individual skill work, and you get close to 15 practice debates during the fourth week, plus a round-robin tournament,” said Fink, who will be a resident assistant for the workshops this summer. “I definitely saw a difference in my debate skills after attending.”
Fink, Overheim and Pryor all said that their experiences at the workshops helped them decide to attend UNT and join the Debate Team.
“The UNT coaches are very involved and care about your success,” Fink said.
Sykes said that although the Mean Green Workshops have become a recruiting tool for UNT and the Debate Team, he adds that the workshops have reached out to diverse communities, including students who may never enroll at UNT. During the past nine years of the workshops, more than $500,000 in financial aid has been given out to participants, he said.
And while many participants go on to make great achievements in debate — one student became part of a debate team at Michigan State University that won the 2010 National Debate Tournament — the benefits of the Mean Green Workshops go beyond that, Sykes said.
“Whether they attend UNT or not, or debate at UNT or not, they learn research and communication skills that will help them in college. And friendships that come out of debate camps last forever,” he said.
Note to editors and reporters: For information on students from your area who are attending this year’s Mean Green Workshops, or to arrange to attend a session, contact Nancy Kolsti in the UNT News Service at 940-565-3509 or email@example.com.