A mighty HUZZAH! to the Sierra Canyon Debate Team for winning the High School Public Debate Program (HSPDP) National Championship, and to Gary Wu ‘22, Bodhi Silberling ‘23, and captain Abdullah Rafique ‘21 for winning the final championship round!
With over 45 teams and 155 debaters from across the country, this is an outstanding achievement for the debate program. In addition, SC faced and defeated Horace Greeley School in New York, a perennial powerhouse that had won three of the last four championships.
Coached by Jake Meany, all three teams--comprising Sierra Canyon students Gary Wu, Abdullah Rafique, Bodhi Silberling, Jonathan Pfeffer ‘22, Jaden Strommer ‘21, Nicholas Pham ‘24, and Bruno Kushnir ’23—advanced to the national championship after months of regional and national tournaments, topic-based research, and extensive practicing. Coach Meany has rebuilt the program to focus on parliamentary debate, which is the forum relevant to college formatting and skills.
The championship consisted of single elimination, like March Madness, featuring five separate topics, three of which the teams prepared beforehand, and two impromptu topics with only twenty minutes of preparation: “Abolish the CIA,” “Impose term limits on U.S. Congress,” “United Nations monitors should oversee U.S. general elections,” “Police should be required to live in the communities they serve,” and “This House believes cancel culture does more good than harm.”
The championship was a noteworthy way to end a triumphant season, filled with multiple victories from numerous international- and national-level tournaments and several top speaker awards at HSPDP tournaments. Additionally, it had a special meaning for senior captain, Abdullah Rafique, who has been a part of the team for his entire SC career and has worked hard for four years to reach this crowning success.
Abdullah happily reflected: “Beyond repeated competitive success, team members credit their experience with debate to increased academic success, far greater participation in public advocacy, leadership positions in extracurricular activities, and the strengthening of their interpersonal communication skills. As I now approach the end of my high school Speech and Debate experience, I can say with certainty that I would not exchange my experience for the world. Not only has it helped prepare me for the academic rigors of college, but it has also created a space for me to meet life-long friends and create unforgettable memories.”
While the 2020-2021 season may be coming to an end, Coach Meany has BIG plans for subsequent years. Coach has created the first-ever North American parliamentary league and has entered SC into international tournaments, something never done before, with great opportunities to expand in the future and be a part of an international league next year.
Sierra Canyon School is a private, independent, non-sectarian, co-educational, college preparatory school for students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12 located in Chatsworth, California. The highly cosmopolitan campus community is reflective of the Greater Los Angeles area and the world at large. Students are empowered to realize their greatest creative, ethical, intellectual and physical promise through small class sizes, a diverse student-teacher culture and a family-like environment.