Paul de Supinski, 16, an incoming junior at Kimball High School, successfully went up against 250 to 300 students from across the United States in the congressional debate category June 16-21 in Birmingham, Ala.
“I was definitely daunted going in, but there were some cool people in my rounds and it was actually pretty fun,” he said.
De Supinski said each student in the congressional debate category was given packets that addressed 43 legislative topics on the day of the competition.
After researching each of the presented bills, he was given a choice of which topics he would debate and whether he would be a proponent or an opponent of each. He consistently chose the latter.
“I like playing devil’s advocate and debate on the negative side,” he said. “When on the negative side, you have to find one thing wrong with it; on positive, you have to find everything to uphold it.”
Due to time constraints, the students agreed to debate three or four issues per round — four preliminary rounds and two semifinal rounds.
Each competitor had three minutes to discuss his or her position on the topic and a minute to answer questions from the judges.
During the preliminary rounds, de Supinski said the competition was friendly, but it grew serious during the semifinals.
“It was pretty intense,” he said.
Among the topics for debate were the use of drones by the United States military and the supervision of U.S. funding to assist the educational system of Pakistan.
De Supinski said he enjoyed the Pakistani issue, because it gave him an opportunity to compare that country’s school system to California’s.
“It was an immense amount of work, but well worth it,” he said.
His mother, Ronnie De Supinski, who accompanied him to Birmingham, said she was proud of his accomplishments.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It brings out the best in him. … He hasn’t been doing this very long, and to have success in this, he’s on his niche.”
After two years on the Kimball debate team, the teenager enjoys the challenge of debate: “It’s the only way you can compete that’s not athletic.”
He qualified for the national tournament with a first-place finish in a regional contest in the Central Valley.
For making it to the semifinals, de Supinski was awarded a medal. He said he hopes to return to nationals in 2014.
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