The National Hispanic Institute team from El Paso won the Texas Ambassador Great Debate on July 28, 2018. (PHOTO COURTESY: ANTHONY SAUCEDO)
The National Hispanic Institute team from El Paso won the Texas Ambassador Great Debate on July 28, 2018.


El Paso Debate Team Wins State Competition

August 1, 2018

On Saturday, July 28, the debate team from El Paso took first place in the Texas Ambassador Great Debate in Austin against teams from all over Texas. The Great Debate is a competition run by the National Hispanic Institute (NHI). El Paso’s NHI chapter is composed of high schoolers from various schools in the city, including Coronado.

The 24 participants from El Paso, who are incoming sophomores, had been training for the competition since February. They competed in one of four events: cross examination, extemporaneous speaking, mock trial, and oratory. Each event has its own rules and challenges, and preparing for them is no easy task. Older members of NHI who have already gone through the Great Debate helped train the participants to be able meet these challenges, investing countless hours in the group’s success.

Out of the 24 El Paso participants, 19 placed in the top 16 of their respective categories. 13 participants continued to Elite Eight, and six participants went on to Final Four. One participant, Renato Martinez of El Paso High, won first place in extemporaneous speaking.

Training participants is time-consuming, but it seems to yield meaningful experiences for those involved. Trainer Daniela Cisneros, who will be a junior at Coronado this year, says the reason she decided to be a trainer came from the positive interactions she had with her own trainers. “I wanted to give the same feeling to other kids. And training: seeing the kids who you spent hours of your time training…and [watching] them bring home the Silver Cup [the first place trophy] fills your heart with love,” she said. Participants agree that NHI has shaped their lives, as well as allowing them to do better academically. “NHI has helped me become a better student because it has helped me think critically and efficiently on my feet and give educated responses to questions,” incoming Coronado sophomore Sarah Duncan said.

El Paso had not won the Great Debate since 2012, so this was quite a momentous occasion for the team. Project administrator Tracy Navar was incredibly pleased with the results. “I was thrilled to see them rewarded for their efforts and so touched when the auditorium stood for them with pinkies raised [the symbol for El Paso],” she said. “They earned the respect of their fellow competitors.”

To the participants who went on the trip, this experience was much more than just another competition. “The Great Debate was definitely one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences in my life. It helped me realize…that leadership is something that involves connecting with people – even if they are your opponents – on a human level, getting to know them through conversations that can make a difference,” Coronado participant Victor Meza said.

The El Paso NHI hope to continue their success in the years to come.

Update: NHI will be having a meeting for interested Coronado freshmen on February 5 during lunch in room C7.

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