Four years ago Morden Collegiate Institute (MCI) started a debate club with four students and since then, Science Teacher and Debate Coach Michael Macaraeg, has seen the group grow to a maximum of 22 students.
"Students have come to recognize that it's a skill that's fun, but also important for life after high school . . . That facing your fear of public speaking is not something that is too difficult to do, and we do it in a fun and welcoming environment," says Macaraeg.
Every year the club has sent students to the National Student Debate Seminar that has brought them to cities like Halifax, NS, Port Hope, ON, and Quebec City last year.
"One of our students, Mollie Wheeler, got Top Bilingual Debater last year in Quebec City winning a pretty important award called the Chief Justice Award . . . That was really huge for us as a debate program [and] for Mollie herself, because she's really really enjoying what debate has provided her so far."
On March 3, grade ten student Hayley Enns and Wheeler (grade 11) both travelled to Winnipeg for the Senior Debate Provincials. Their team placed seventh, landing them a place at the Nationals taking place in Halifax, NS in April.
Macaraeg says the success of MCI's club has helped put Morden on the national debate map and has helped make them the 2019 National Student Debate Seminar Host.
"We got asked and approached by the Canadian Student Debate Federation, and they knew that Manitoba was slated to be the next host, but they had recognized that debate was growing in Morden."
Of the three to four times the Seminar has been held in Manitoba, his will be the first time it's held outside of Winnipeg. Morden will be hostess to over 100 students from all ten provinces and at least two of three territories, as well as the 92-year-old founder, Tom Lawson.
Macaraeg says, "he's such a passionate man about having students involved in politics and public speaking, and just being driving forces in their communities."
The theme for the Seminar is the 'Rural/Urban Divide,' and he hopes that the different communities of the Pembina Valley can use this as an opportunity to work together, and teach each other about the breaking of small-town stereotypes. The participating students will learn this through workshops, listening to speakers, and taking part in a model parliament at the legislative building.
He says anyone from grades nine to 12 is welcome to register for one of 14 spots on the Team Manitoba delegation, adding "we'd love to have a huge representation from the Pembina Valley and get debate started here."