Tift County High School debate team members Grace McDonald, Mary Kathryn Howard, Garret Pierzchajlo and Dru Branch are pictured with coach Dr. Julie Rucker, gathering to travel to Carrollton to compete in the Peach State Classic recently.
TIFTON — The Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence is delighted to announce a new grant opportunity, the Howard Center Academic Competition grants. An annual $2,000 donation will be made to the foundation, which will allow academic teams to apply for matching funds. Grant guidelines, forms and dates will be added to the foundation’s Web page. A lead grant of $1,000 has been made to the Tift County High School debate team. The team is coached by Dr. Julie Rucker, a 2008 winner of the Excellence in Teaching award and current Tift County Teacher of the Year. According to Rucker, policy debate is alive and well at Tift County High School this school year with TCHS debaters Mary Kathryn Howard, Garret Pierzchajlo, Grace McDonald and Dru Branch. They recently attended the Peach State Classic at Carrollton High School and finished with a respectable record at their first tournament. The team of Howard and Pierzchajlo finished in the novice division with a 3-2 record while Branch and McDonald got a win under their belts as well. “This was our first real tournament,” said Rucker. “I told them to go expecting to learn rather than win this first time, and that’s exactly what they did.” She added, “Debate is an activity you can explain to someone, but they won’t begin to understand how the arguments work until they are in a round. After every round at the last tournament, I could hear how our debaters were learning from their mistakes and were listening to advice judges were giving them.” Rucker, a high school debater herself, said that it can be one of the most valuable experiences students can have in high school. “I learned how to research, take notes, think quickly and make strategic arguments as a policy debater,” she said. “These students won’t learn these lifelong skills at this depth in a classroom. Academic extracurricular activities such as debate can prepare students for post-secondary success. I also am undergoing a learning curve this year. When I was in high school, we didn’t have paperless debate like our students do now. Instead of carrying cards and evidence packets into the round on paper, our debaters are carrying their laptops and flash drives.” Policy debate focuses on one topic for the entire year. This year’s topic focuses on the U.S. government increasing non-military exploration and/or development of the Earth’s oceans. The debate team is growing with several interested students attending weekly meetings and learning from their peers. The team’s first tournament this year was at Valdosta High School. They plan to attend at least four tournaments this first year and want to expand their footprint across the state as they enter varsity competition next year.
Tift County Foundation for Excellence in Education
Tift County Board of Education