Faith Vogt and Alana Zahid, middle left and middle right, are teaming up for the Canadian Junior High School National Debate.

CHSS team set for battle in national debate

Alana Zahid and Faith Vogt were excited about going to Halifax for the Canadian Junior High School National Debate.

COVID-19 wiped out the trip to the Nova Scotia capital, but not the event.

Today through Sunday (May 28-31), the national competition will proceed in an online format. As a team, Zahid and Vogt are part of an eight-person B.C. contingent that also has duos from the Okanagan, Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

“I’m honoured that I’m representing B.C,” said Zahid, a Grade 9 student at College Heights Secondary School. “I have to do my best – I have to show the rest of Canada that yes, B.C. is amazing.”

Zahid and Vogt landed on Team B.C. for nationals based on their showing at the provincial-level Law Foundation Cup, held in Vancouver over two days in late February. Vogt, also in Grade 9, was a College Heights student at the time but now attends Prince George Secondary School. For debate, she continues to wear CHSS colours.

Liane Hanson, who guides the College Heights debate club, has great respect for the abilities and fire that both students bring to the debate floor.

“Alana's a fierce competitor in debate, because she's so articulate and prepared,” Hanson said. “Her nationals partner, Faith, still debates passionately and fiercely as part of our team.”

In Zahid’s view, she and Vogt mesh together perfectly when it comes to making an argument and then backing it up.

“She is very confident and outspoken and brave,” Zahid said. “She’s not afraid of saying what’s on her mind and expressing her opinion. That’s what makes her a perfect complement to my personality where I’m a little hesitant to say something unless I have something to back it up. But she says it and then I give her the facts to back it up and that’s why we work well together.”

For nationals – as in any other debate competition – pairs must adhere to strict guidelines when presenting a case. It’s like a dance where they can’t step on each other’s toes.

“The points that my partner says, I can’t say them again but I should back them up,” Zahid explained. “And the opposing team, if you rebut what your partner has said, they will pick up on it and they will include it in their final rebuttal.”

In competitions, participants are given some debate topics ahead of time and prepare themselves to argue both sides of the particular issue. But, as a way to test general knowledge and ability to present arguments more spontaneously, other topics remain unknown until minutes before the word-slinging begins. Being successful, therefore, requires a great deal of work ahead of time.

“The impromptu ones are the most fun but they’re the most nerve-wracking because you have to go in with what you have in your head,” said Zahid, a Principal’s List student at College Heights. “You can’t use any resources, you just have to use the facts that you already have stored.”

Zahid joined the College Heights debate club in Grade 8 and knew she had found her niche.

“(I enjoy) the fact that my curiosity has an outlet,” she said. “I’ve always been curious about many things, but when you get a topic, you have to research deeper and make a case for what you believe in, or the side that you’re on.”

Other members of the College Heights debate club are Nadia Mansour and Katya Zanozin (Grade 12), Talal Khalid and Harsha Aravind (Grade 11), Cole Wankling and Qais Khan (Grade 11), and Tatianna Bodenham and Lily Payne (Grade 9).