Debate or argue? Holy Redeemer knows the difference

Photo by Mary O’KEEFE The debate team includes from left Isabel Zamora, Katrina Webb, Ysabel Diaz, Nicholas Zamora, Reagan Hesse, Darren Kim, Liam Molina, Gabriel Buzzelli, Stevie Celi, John Mousseau, Hunter Gunski and Mason Santa Maria.


Arguing with a preteen or teen is like riding a rollercoaster. Emotions range from, “I hate you” mad to “You don’t understand” indignation. Imagine a world where teenagers debate, not argue, where logic supersedes teenage angst. That world is the Holy Redeemer Catholic School debate team.

The team was formed two years ago and in a recent regional debate competition took first, fourth, and fifth in debate and fourth in oral interpretation.   The teens and preteens do their research on their given topic and work with their partner to debate all possible points.

“The hardest thing is the research,” said Reagan Hesse. The students debate in two person teams and learn to depend on each other. There are three girls on the team. When asked if girls debate differently or have an advantage, the overwhelming response was, “Girls are more emotional.”  However the reigning champion of regional debate was a girl from another school.

“But the last time we got first place,” Gabriel Buzzelli said.

This year the team beat the regional champion. The debate was held at St. Regis. There were 19 teams competing and at one point a Holy Redeemer team had to debate in front of an audience of over 200.

“Remember to keep your cool,” said John Mousseau. The students have to stay calm and not allow the debate to turn into an argument although sometimes that is difficult.

“I called a girl crazy one time,” said Buzzelli. That loss of cool will haunt him for a long time, mostly because his fellow teammates will never let him forget it.  The team also must put away their teenage text-talk and present their points in the formal English language. There are times, however, when no matter how much research the team does, there is that one moment when they must reach into their imagination.

“There are times where you have to make up a fact. A fact that makes you seem right,” admits Mousseau. They take the foundation of the truth and exaggerate it.

“We could be good politicians,” joked student Stevie Celi.

The team has fun but takes its research and program very seriously. All students agree that the benefits outweigh the amount of hours they need to prepare.  It helps with high school resumes and writing speeches gives you confidence for public speaking, said Nicholas Zamora.

The team is preparing for its next debate on Feb. 12.