285 debaters participate in summer program

Ellis Becker

During the summer, 285 debaters from all around the globe took part in in the first ever Harvard-Westlake Institute for Speech and Debate.

The camp, called “debateLA,” was an intensive summer camp where students participated in debate classes.

Students from 105 different high schools attended the camp from all across the United States, as well as students from Seoul, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Budapest. Those who did not live in Los Angeles were housed in UCLA dorms and bussed to the Upper School.

All the coaches from the Harvard-Westlake debate team, including debate program head Mike Bietz, coached at debateLA. Other Harvard-Westlake coaches included assistant coach and team administrator Steve Knell and former Harvard-Westlake debaters now in colleges such as Harvard, Yale and UCLA. Additionally, two coaches from The Harker School and a coach from Palos Verdes High School also participated.

“We had an outstanding staff of some of the most successful debate coaches in history along with successful recent graduates, including last year’s Tournament of Champions winner,” Bietz said.

Campers staying at UCLA were offered a range of activities in the evening, including SAT and ACT prep, college counseling, additional debate work and presentations from guest speakers. On the weekends, students went to movie theaters, Universal Studios and the Santa Monica Pier.

For a less intense experience, many younger students opted for a one-week day camp starting at 9 a.m. with a topic discussion and then participated in mock debates between the campers. There was also a camp for public speaking and general argumentation for non-debaters that wished to gain skill in those areas.

Connor Engel ’17 said he had a great experience with the camp and said it was educational.

“I was able to grow as a debater and make a lot of new friends,” Engel said. “I appreciated that they managed to retain a lighthearted atmosphere that prevented stress, and the workload was actually reasonable.”

The camp received positive feedback from students, and Bietz said he is confident in the success of the program.

“As of now I would say the program was a huge success,” Bietz said. “I think we beat expectations in terms of numbers and reach, but we also received really amazing feedback from a number of students and parents. My hope is that Harvard-Westlake continues to want to host the program in the future and expand its offerings.”