In 2014 when Tony C. Duckworth, Sr., President of Mt. Olive Ministries (MOM), visited California to raise support for MOM, he was asked to be a Community Judge at a high school debate tournament while he was there. Watching the debaters exercise skill in presenting well-researched arguments, and demonstrate proficiency in critical thinking and refutation left a significant impression on Tony. He wanted those skills for the students in the Mt. Olive community.
Tony began talking with the Lindsay family who had visited MOM in 2013. They have three children who are involved in Speech and Debate. He wanted to find out more about these activities and how to launch them in Grace Christian School. God was at work because the Lindsays had felt a nudge to return to Mount Olive in 2015 and had contacted the Owen family who are also involved in Speech and Debate. Between the two families, the idea of holding a Speech and Debate Camp in Mt. Olive was birthed. It was an ambitious idea because usually one week camps are either speech camps or debate camps. However, the Lindsays and Owens had children involved in only Speech, and some involved in only Debate, and since they were planning a family missions trip to serve at MOM, they wanted to include both Speech and Debate.
Speech is an activity that concentrates on helping a student create, organize, refine, and deliver a speech to an audience. The speech can be an interpretive speech (one in which the speaker interprets how a work of fiction should come across to an audience), a platform speech (one in which the speaker writes the speech him/herself), or a limited preparation speech (one in which the speaker has a short amount of time to prepare and present a speech). The speaker, except in limited preparation speeches, works on the same speech for an entire school year.
Team Policy Debate, on the other hand, is an activity that revolves around an assigned resolution for an entire year. The nature of the resolution focuses on reforming a governmental policy. For example, The United States federal government should substantially curtail its domestic surveillance
Students are required to do a great deal of research in order to understand the resolution, and then must come up with a plan that affirms the resolution. In the process, students develop skills of research, presentation, and critical thinking.
The Lindsay and Owen families came to MOM with five (5) other experienced high school debaters and with Mrs. Win Heggem, arguably one of the best speech coaches in the country. When Mrs. Heggem had heard of the trip to Mississippi, she felt the tug of the Holy Spirit to join the group. This team of 18 held a one week camp for 22 Mt. Olive students, ranging from 1st–8th grade. Win organized and led the morning speech session for all 22 students; all the California team were her support staff during this session, and broke into small groups to emphasize and demonstrate different speaker skills being taught by Mrs. Heggem. By the end of the week, the students had learned about the three different speech categories (interpretive, platform, and spontaneous) and had also learned some presentation skills. The MOM students performed for an audience of family and friends on Friday night, demonstrating some of the skills they had learned.
The debate portion of the camp was carried out by the California high school debaters and happened in the afternoons. Debate was taught only to 5th–9th graders. The MOM students learned how to be respectful of an opponent while they were talking, how to attack an argument and not the person, and how to take notes while listening to other speakers in order to refute their arguments. In addition to these fundamental skills, they learned the proper structure in which to present an argument to an audience. By the end of the week, they had learned a basic format of debate and were able to compete in a mini-tournament amongst themselves. The Awards Ceremony for this was held at the Friday night event.
In addition to speech and debate, the California team also provided Math and Reading tutoring for the 1st–4th grade students while the older students were in the debate session. The younger students had the opportunity to practice reading out loud (an essential skill for Speech) and play math games to develop criti- cal thinking skills (essential for debate).
Lastly, the California dads, Mark Lindsay and Chris Owen used their experience as engineers in Silicon Valley to introduce engineering concepts to the 5th – 8th grade students for an hour in the afternoon each day. Mark and Chris discussed a different field of engineering each day, and had labs so the students could have some hands-on experience.
Of course, all of this academia was interspersed with some fun games at recess! The California team felt blessed to be able to share their exper- tise and talents with the students in Mt. Olive. By God’s grace, we hope the introductory skills that were presented will leave an impact in the lives of the students.