April 5, 2014 in Washington Voices

U-Hi debaters coach young successors

By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Members of the University High School debate team stand in the school library for a photo Wednesday. They have had a busy season, and Ansh Sehgal, far right, won a prestigious award and will head to the national debate tournament in June.
(Full-size photo)

The members of the University High School debate team are busy.

They’re trying to get a bridge renamed. They’re winning awards.

This week, they are learning to coach other students for the annual Central Valley School District middle school debate tournament.

University’s debate team coaches students from its feeder schools: North Pines, Horizon, Bowdish and Summit.

“(We teach them) the basic fundamentals,” said junior Maddy Haase. “How to make a case,” added junior Brookelyn Syme.

“It’s like a scouting combine for us,” said senior Ansh Sehgal.

Jacob Dawson, a sophomore, said he competed in the tournament when he was in the eighth grade.

And during the debate on May 16, the students will serve as judges.

Debate adviser Dave Smith said the exercise is helpful for his students.

“You don’t learn anything as well as when you teach it,” Smith said.

A longer-term project for two of the debate students is an initiative to rename the Howard Street bridge in Riverfront Park after former Speaker Tom Foley, who died in October.

Sehgal said he and junior John Somerlott have given presentations to both the Spokane City Council and the Spokane Parks Board.

Smith said the project was the students’ idea and he liked the idea of the symbolism of a bridge to honor Foley.

“It’s the symbolism of crossing the aisle,” Smith said. “He was a man who worked with both sides.”

The team liked the location of the bridge, which was part of Expo ’74, an event Foley helped to bring to the area.

But when the students talk about Foley, there is one fact they all like to repeat.

“He was a debater when he was young,” Syme said. “An undefeated debater,” Sehgal added.

Sehgal is getting ready to graduate, so he’s already preparing his successor, Somerlott, to complete the project.

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