Future leaders just getting warmed up

In front, Peter Gedye, Ella Mitchell, Travis Cunningham, Sophia Mitchell. At back: Kale Adair, Melissa Connolly, Zar Sinclair. Photo: Maddy Nash.

Local history has been made, with the Bay of Plenty’s schools’ debating team qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time at the New Zealand Schools’ Debating Championship.

The Bay of Plenty became a regional team in 2018, after splitting off from the Waikato.

The New Zealand Schools’ Debating Championship was held over the last weekend of May.

The Bay of Plenty team members Ella Mitchell, Arcadia Wardley (both from Bethlehem College), and Peter Gedye (Tauranga Boys’ College) were selected following Bay of Plenty’s largest ever regional competition held on March 26.

The national competition includes the top high school debaters from 12 regions throughout New Zealand with notable past participants current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Shadow Leader of the House, Chris Bishop.

Due to Covid-19, the 2022 national competition was delivered through a hybrid format and not in person in Wellington, as it had been in years prior to the pandemic.

The BOP team was part of the online hub at the University of Auckland that included teams from Northland, Auckland, Counties Manukau, and Waikato.

Unfortunately the semi-finals of the competition was the end of the road for BOP where they bowed out in a close debate to the eventual winners Auckland White.

Ella Mitchell had an exceptional tournament and was selected as a reserve for the New Zealand debating team having only initially been selected for the regional team in 2020.

Ella notes the experience as a personal highlight.

“Being a part of the Bay of Plenty Regional Team for the past three years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve met so many wonderful people and developed skills I never thought I’d be capable of possessing.

“It’s humbling to now be able to use my experiences at Nationals to coach others within my school and region, and I hope that I can help other students to find their passion within debating the same way I did.”

Fellow team mate Peter Gedye says the experience has had a profound effect on him

“[This] was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. From chaotic training sessions to matching pajamas I’ve loved the process and developed what will hopefully be a lifelong passion for the craft of debating.

“The amazing coaching that we’ve been privileged to receive has really helped me to hone my skills of communication and critical thinking in a way that no other activity does. In my opinion debating is an activity that everyone could benefit from trying and the skills and confidence that it gives you are simply invaluable.”

President of the New Zealand Schools’ Debating Council and past competitor, Sam O’Grady, says the experience has far reaching and lifelong effects on the students and thanked those who made the tournament possible.

“The people I met at my Nationals ended up becoming some of my best friends throughout University and into working life.

“The Council is enormously grateful for the support it receives from its sponsors, particularly the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research Inc, without which these regional and national finals could not run.”

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