Grade 10 student Cindy Chen stands at a podium addressing a crowd.

I have a drawer in my desk filled with papers. Ripped, lined, grid, dotted, scratched, and crumpled. They look like something you would carelessly stuff into the bottom of a backpack without a second thought. And while most people would immediately ball them up and casually throw them into a recycling bin, I keep my papers for a different reason. Every scribbled note and post-it haphazardly attached represents a debate tournament round. Every new motion, case, and idea is combined in a potpourri of ideas.

My journey in debate started at the ripe age of three when I began to discover the hatred for my sworn enemy—steamed broccoli. I would negotiate and debate my mum back and forth concerning how many more bites of the oddly textured vegetable I needed to have. While I rarely won due to the lack of my ability to speak cohesive thoughts, some of the gears in my brain clicked. It was only until middle school when my time in debate began in earnest. While my words were jumbled and I clumsily tripped over my sentences, I began to articulate my ideas slowly.

There was a hidden beauty in the feeling of success once making an argument that your opponent could not refute. The anticipation while you hear your judge announce the winner of the round was a feeling I could not get enough of. I was hooked immediately. This debate season, I began to experiment into new styles and variations of debate such as WSDC (World Schools Debating Championships) and BP (British Parliamentary). 

As the weekends passed, and I progressed through each tournament the papers in my drawer grew from just a few loose leaf papers I carelessly ripped from my notebook to thick stacks of cases printed in Times New Roman. Bolded, underlined, italicized, and up to 20 pages long per round, they grew alongside my skill in debate. My team placed 8th out of 400+ participants at a tournament hosted by Stanford and were quarterfinalists at the Harvard University tournament in the novice category. With national teams coming in, to say I was intimidated is the understatement of the year. At the same time, it was an opportunity for us to grow as debaters.

Yet, debate has reached far past what I had imagined. As the incoming head of the Debate and Model United Nations club I am looking towards the future to see what it can do for my peers. Whether it is presenting in school or speaking in front of an audience of thousands, the importance of public speaking is everywhere. And while I still may not be able to out-maneuver my parents when it comes to how many pieces of steamed broccoli I must eat, I know debate has set me up for success in my life.