Debate team gets boost
After five members of Dobie High School’s debate team competed in the prestigious Harvard National High School Invitational Forensics Tournament this year, team speech and debate coach Andrew Barrett reflected on how that opportunity almost didn’t happen..
The Dobie team hosts a local debate tournament annually as the main fundraiser to send a student to the event at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
Barrett said the such events and participation on the team provides experiences that stay with the students throughout their lives.
“So often, kids don’t feel like they have a voice,” he said. “This not only teaches them those vital skills like public speaking and confidence, but it allows them to have a voice. It shows them that they have something worth saying and we think they’re important enough to listen to.”
But the February trip to the Harvard event seemed to be in jeopardy when a pipeline began to leak in the green space in front of the school over winter break. Administrators reported the leak to ExxonMobil, and a makeshift emergency response headquarters was set up in the campus parking lot to start repairs.
“The tournament brings in over 1,000 attendees and is the largest fundraiser we do,” Barrett said. “If the tournament could not be held at Dobie on that exact weekend (Jan. 5), it would have had to been canceled.”
Teams from schools were coming in from throughout the state, he said, but Exxon initially said it would need use of the building to fix the issue. Principal Franklin Moses put in a call to Nicolás Medina, ExxonMobil’s public and government affairs manager.
Little did Moses know that Medina had more common ground with the speech and debate team than anyone realized.
“He was a former debater himself,” Barrett said. “When he found out that the tournament was in jeopardy, he immediately went out of his way, went above and beyond to help. He said, ‘We’ve got to work around it.’ He was really a champion for us.”
Medina found a way for the company to work around the tournament, which occurred as scheduled, and the company purchased a pizza lunch for every student and administrator in attendance. But the biggest surprise came later.
“We have trouble sending one kid a year sometimes to the Harvard tournament,” Barrett said. “Our district has a lot of kids who are in lower socioeconomic status; so a lot of them, though they are very talented, can’t afford to go on their own. When I explained this to Mr. Medina, he said, ‘Tell me how much you need and we’ll cut you a check.’”
ExxonMobil donated $10,000 to the team, which allowed five kids to attend the Harvard tournament in February. Three advanced to the quarter finals.
The Harvard tournament is one that Medina participated in during high school.
“I still have the memories of landing in Cambridge for the Harvard tournament and of my experiences there,” Medina said in a Pasadena ISD press release. “It gives me joy to be able to help these students have that once-in-a-lifetime experience as well.”