A Sixth Grade Maverick & Grace Under Fire: DKC City Champs 2014
On February 22nd and 23rd DEBATE-Kansas City held the second half of the annual City Championships on the campus of UMKC. The tournament included a remarkable victory by a sixth grade debater, an inspiring display of grace and dozens of competitors whose talent and maturity exceeded their ages.
The DKC City Champs has a history of success by mavericks or students who debate by themselves instead of with the usual partner in policy debate. Most of the time students debate maverick because their partner fails to attend the day of the tournament. This was the case for Alta Vista’s Joshua Acosta (pictured left) who found out Saturday morning that his partner would not be able to compete. Faced with a tough choice Mr. Acosta decided he would rather try going it alone than not debating.
After four preliminary rounds of competition Joshua Acosta was undefeated and was named the tournament’s top speaker in open policy debate. He advanced to elimination rounds and the following day met one of DKC’s best teams from Sumner Academy, a team that was supposed to be in the advanced division.
The Sumner duo of Suan Sonna and Vanessa Obi intended to debate in the more advanced varsity division, which they had done at previous tournaments, but an accident with registration placed them in the open division. They defeated a tough duo from Benjamin Banneker (Shyesha Flag & Cheyanne Clopton) in the semi-final round, setting them up to debate one of two Alta Vista teams in the finals.
The Alta Vista squad had the top and fourth place seeds entering the elimination debates. As is common, rather than have a debate between teammates, Alta Vista decided to automatically advance the top seed Joshua Acosta over the fourth seeded duo of Cesi Bates & Martin Velasquez. However, all members of the team used the semi-final round between Banneker and Sumner to prepare for the finals. Coaches Hannah Dinnen and Dave Short facilitated mini debates, practice speeches and evidence analysis with Cesi Bates & Martin Velasquez contributing.
Proud coach Dave Short said, “Everyone came to a pre-final round practice with something to share: Ms. Dinnen with her summaries and fresh evidence, and each debater brought some new piece of evidence or an idea to share with the squad…contributing to Joshua’s win.”
In the final round of open middle school debate DKC had a panel seven judges (mostly collegiate debaters) that reached an unlikely 7-0 decision in favor of the maverick from Alta Vista. Immediately after the decision was announced Joshua Acosta’s opponents, Suan and Vanessa, embraced him with hugs and congratulations as they showed true appreciation for his achievement.
“It was a beautiful gesture by Suan and Vanessa, showing maturity beyond their years,” said DKC Executive Director Gabe Cook. “And for Suan in particular it showed impressive personal growth.”
Mr. Sonna has been a stand out DKC competitor since he was in sixth grade. Last year he placed second at City Champs in the event of student congress, but desperately wanted to win first, so much that he asked if the final round could possibly be re-done. Now, after a tough loss in a round he badly wanted to win, Suan genuinely congratulated his competitor for an “awesome” job debating.
“I was happy he (Joshua) won and he truly deserves that trophy. If anything DKC has inspired me to pursue my public speaking dreams more and matured me as a person,” said Mr. Sonna to DKC Executive Director Gabe Cook about the final round.
Stories like these that demonstrate the value of not only academic debate but having coaches and volunteers to mentor young debaters. DKC coaches, volunteers and staff use debate competition to empower students to not only believe in themselves, but to believe in others, and to have respect for anyone willing to join the DKC community.
“That moment when Joshua was declared winner and then Suan and Vanessa rushed to congratulate him, was one of my proudest at DKC. It was everything we want our community to be,” said Mr. Cook.
The results for other City Champs events included Barstow (Megan Nalamachu & Kristin Tingle) defeating Lee A Tolbert Community (Jared Hoskins & Josiah Hoskins) in the final round of varsity policy debate. Tikhara Jones of Arrowhead captured first place out of approximately 150 competitors in the event of student congress. In high school student congress Gary Bradley-Lopez won first place and in equity debate Kayla Gilmore and Shawndrea Magee took the top prize. You can full results here: