After debating for two years, new club gains national recognition

Posted Monday, Aug. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The Southlake Junior Debate Club For more information on the Southlake Junior Debate Club, contact Ellena Prokopeas at eprokopeas@hotmail.com or 817-902-3804.

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Ellena Prokopeas believes children need to begin debating competitively in middle school.

Prokopeas, a Southlake mother of three, started the Southlake Junior Debate Club two years ago for Carroll ISD seventh- and eighth-grade students after she discovered debate was only offered to high school students.

She said she was looking for an opportunity for her daughter and other middle-school students to gain debate skills, including critical thinking, researching and public speaking.

“The number one fear that everyone has is speaking in public,” said Prokopeas. “I thought ‘wow,’ that’s the number one fear? If my kids can overcome that fear right there that’s one less thing my kids have to deal with.”

Daughter Jacqueline said the debate club is already paying off.

“At first I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but now being in it for two years, I see the benefits that it’s given me,” the 14-year-old said. “In debate, you have to come up with responses right away. That’s exactly how the SAT is.”

Adam Jacobi, the National Forensic League Middle School Coordinator, said research shows that middle-school-aged youth have not developed the inhibition of public speaking that overcomes their high school counter parts.

“It’s amazing. They are all too happy to be there,” he said. “They have that unfettered energy still that high school kids start to lose a little bit.”

The National Forensic League, a national honor society for secondary- and middle-school speech and debate, recognized the Southlake Junior Debate Club as one of the nation’s top five programs of excellence in debate. The honor came after an impressive performance at the National Middle School Forensic Tournament in June.

Jacqueline said she and the team practiced from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for 10 straight days before the tournament.

The team finished well in the Congressional Debate, Extemporaneous Speaking and Public Forum debate events.

“Since it was only my second tournament and first national, it was chaotic,” Jacqueline Prokopeas said. “There were so many people. It was fun. It was a good experience.”

Dustin L. Dangli, 817-390-7770 Twitter: @dustindangli

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