My Experience with Debate

When I was first introduced to debate, it was kind of by accident. I didn’t necessarily go looking for the class; in fact, I didn’t even know that there was a debate team at my school. My friend was giving me a ride home after school but needed to talk to a teacher before heading home. I followed her into Ms. Gardea’s class and was left in complete awe as I walked in. Two students were having a pretty intense argument about foreign relations with America. Another kid was reciting a speech to a wall and two other students were acting out some sort of play. My friend had finished talking to Ms. Gardea and had to literally drag me out of the classroom because her mom was waiting outside. I walked away completely confused and left wondering, “What was that?!” The next day, I peeked into Ms. Gardea’s classroom again. This time there was only one girl reciting a speech about how we all take things for granted. It was amazing!. Ms. Gardea noticed me intrusively listening at the door and asked if I needed anything. Before I knew it, my curious mouth blurted out, “What is this?” and she answered, “This? Well, this is debate.”

The next couple of days, Ms. Gardea started teaching me what speech and debate really was. I quickly learned that it’s something that isn’t for the faint of heart—debate’s main focus is getting out there: in front of lots of people! There are different events in debate that require you to talk, act or argue. The talking events are oratory and extemporaneous speeches. These two events are perfect for writers and outgoing people. In these categories, you write your own speeches, with your own opinions, and tell people how you really feel. The acting events include humorous interpretation, duo interpretation, dramatic interpretation, prose, and poetry. These events are perfect for aspiring actors, theater fans, and loud people. Here, you get to act out scenes from books and plays; they are fun to watch, but so much more fun to act! Finally debate wouldn’t be debate without actually debating. The arguing events are LD, CX, PF, and student congress. Arguments cover topics like whether teachers should be paid based on performance and if the United States should intervene in another nation’s struggle for democracy. These are the events that call for a lot of quick thinking, planning and guts.

After a quick overview of what debate was, I decided to try it out. Competitions are serious and long. Professional attire is needed, and girls are dressed in pencil skirts, dress shirts, coats, heels and panty hose. I learned that my first event was PF. My partner, a newbie like me, and I would be debating whether plea bargaining undermined the criminal justice system. When I first got to the school where the competition took place, I thought it was going to be very quiet with people going over their cases, but mostly there was yelling, pizza, and fun! I found my team and we stuffed ourselves with pizza before it was time for our rounds. For a while, I was having so much fun just meeting a lot of new witty people that I had forgotten I was actually going to compete! Then I saw a huge mob gather at the corner of the cafeteria. Curiously, I went to where see what it was, and they were all looking at “postings,” which were the assignments of who was going against who, where it was happening, and what time. I quickly jotted down my room number and competitors’ names and noticed that my first round was happening in 5 minutes! My partner and I rushed upstairs, trying to figure out the campus. We found the room, caught our breath, composed ourselves and walked into the classroom. Our competition was John and Karen, two amazing, friendly people that I had previously met that day. Instead of being their funny characters, they were serious and introduced themselves formally in front of our judge. My partner and I followed, and became serious also. Finally it was time. We flipped a coin over who was going first and what side we would argue. After an agonizing, tiring and intense hour, the round was over. I’m going to be completely honest with you and share that we lost badly. My partner and I had even agreed with the opposing side at the end instead of continuing our own case!

But now, after about two years of practice and experience, I can honestly say that debate has taught me so much. I now have less fear of talking in front of people, writing has become easier, and my quick thinking is faster. I love debate and strongly recommend that you try it! This, well, this is debate.

Diary of an Overachiever


My best friend is amazing! She reminds me when I need to do things, is always there for me, takes care of all my phone numbers and contacts, and lets me write all over her! Yes, my agenda and I are very close. Like most nerdy, over achieving people, our agendas have a very special place in our hearts. Of course, you know what it’s like to be an overachiever with hardly any time in your schedule for yourself. I mean you are a high school or college teenage girl! Is that just me? Doesn’t everyone have a strong almost unhealthy relationship with their agendas? I am Vanessa Rodriguez, and I am a busy overachiever. I like to believe that I’m not alone! Here’s a day in the life of a high school overachiever.

With high school almost ending and an expensive college tuition rolling around, scholarships force many of us to fill our schedules with extra curricular activities, advanced placement classes and sports. For me, my extra curricular activities include being a historian for the National Honor Society, being a yearbook editor, being a committed member to student council, devoting my time to National Technical Honor Society (which is like nation honor society just technical), helping out the DECA club, and organizing meetings for the Business of Professionals club. My advanced classes include all of my core classes, some dual credit classes, which are classes that give college credit, and COSMOS classes, an organization focused on a certain curriculum for science and math orientated kids (why did I take it? I don’t know. I don’t even like science and math that much!). I’m not in a physical sport and I was too busy to get my physical in time. Instead, I’m in debate and SkillsUSA, activities that give my brain quite a workout. Now, you can kind of see how my obsession with my agenda came to be.

My real, human, friends are like me. They also devote their time to school, sports and agendas. We would be classified as the “nerds” in our school, but we don’t care. There’s actually a big group of us! We’re all relatively good at science, math, writing and reading, we even compete over grades and ranks, but we aren’t too fond of all of the subjects. We all have that one passion that we want to make our career. We have a future doctor, a business organizer, an architect, a politician, a lawyer, a graphic designer, a writer, an engineer, a couple computer techies and a journalist. Together, we rule the school by planning all of the activities as we hope to one day conquer our world. We’re all in student council so dances, pep rallies, and movements our made up of our opinions, decorations and plans. The school has become our second home. Yes, I know we’re not normal. To be honest, I love being so involved! I’ve met so many people because of everything I’m in, and it feels good being part of our school’s voice. My nerdy friends and I have a busy schedule, but we don’t let it get in the way of our social life. We still get invited to parties, go out to the movies or carnivals and still know how to have a good time. We’re still teenagers.

My busy schedule usually starts at 6:30 in the morning. I wake up and get ready for school (just because I’m dead tired in the morning doesn’t mean I can’t look good!) I arrive at school around 7:15. Yes, class doesn’t actually start until 8 but I like to be there early for any morning meetings or to finish up my homework. Because we all have our own strong suits in certain subjects, my friends and I help each other out with our homework and then we start school. Even though you might not jam pack your time like me, I know, you understand those 8 hours of work that everyone does. After school is over I’m on my way to any after school meetings or practices. Usually I don’t get home until about 5 in the afternoon. And when I’m finally home, I start my homework and don’t finish until about 10. It doesn’t necessarily take me 5 hours to do my homework, but the internet and phone can be such horrible distractions! Procrastination shouldn’t be tolerated in my busy schedule, but it’s always practiced. Finally, I go to sleep completely exhausted and prepare myself for another adventurous day! Then the weekend rolls around and if I don’t have a debate tournament, I have a community service project. Sunday’s are devoted to church and family time. I’m so happy that my family has been very supportive with my busy schedule and I feel there should be a day saved for them. Actually, my busy schedule is the reason why they bought me a car!

I know you’re probably thinking that my life is just way too busy to even enjoy, but I have to say that I love my life and actually love being so busy. Many of my greatest memories and pictures have come from all of the community service projects and events I have been involved in! I’ve met so many people, visited different places and have learned so many new things. I will admit that at first I joined so many things because of college, but now that I look back on it, I don’t regret anything. If you look back at my agenda, it’s really a good work of art, with scribbles, notes, phone numbers, sticky notes, assignments, birthdays and reminders. I love how it outlines everything I accomplished and experienced throughout the year. Even though I can be a bit over achieving I have to say that so far I’ve done a lot of great things!

Dealing With Senoritis

As a senior in high school,  I can’t help but worry about the dreaded disease known as “senioritis!” In case you haven’t Teen in front of high school lockerheard, senioritis is a made up disease conjured up by seniors who feel that it is the reason students procrastinate and slack off, which takes a toll on senior year productivity. Although it is made up, I have found that several of my friends, which happen to be some of the most dedicated and committed students in school, have become victims of this make-believe illness. Unfortunately, there are consequences that will affect their future.

What is Senioritis?

Main symptoms include: slacking off in class, procrastinating on homework, cutting classes, laziness, and lack of participation in school, academics, sports and activities. It is highly contagious and targets the majority of people between the ages of non-graduate and graduate. It seems that Senioritis happens because it’s the last year of high school and students just want to leave for college. Ytzel McDaniel, a recent high school graduate in El Paso, Texas and current Latinita, agrees and says Senioritis continues to infect “because all you want to do is get out of [high school] and get into college. There is a lot of red tape that comes with senior year, and it comes at the worst time because all you want to do is get out!”

What causes Senioritis?

Many students work the hardest throughout their junior year- sacrificing rest, comfort, and utter enjoyment of life. I would know because I fell into that overworking zombie mode, non-stop, joining club after club after club, devoting weekends to community service projects and spending long, sleepless nights to excel on homework. Now that our last year of high school is coming up, it seems almost irresistible to take a little break from all of our hard work, and, based on all the rumors from previous seniors, its not too hard to take a break. Many of the students that fall into Senioritis have already completed their college applications and resumes during the summer before their senior year (college application deadlines usually occur in fall semester), therefore doing more work that won’t be added to final admissions seems unnecessary and tedious. Catching the disease is easy but what many people don’t take into consideration is that the consequences can be life altering.

What are the Consequences on Senioritis?

Although Senioritis is not a serious disease, it’s symptoms do resemble the same as depression. Here is where it starts to get serious. Many students start to feel lazy and displeased about having to get up and participate in class, sports, or activities at school. Some get a bit nostalgic and depressed about having to get used to not being able to see their friends or having to be independent and live on their own without the guidance of adults. Many (like myself and a couple of my friends) are afraid of the real world and feel that they aren’t ready to start a new chapter in their lives. Some actually do fall into depression because of the serious consequences that follow from Senioritis; ranging from failing grades, to losing spots off the varsity team, to colleges or universities rescinding their acceptance, to financial aid reworking your already established paperwork! Taking a break from school work can go as far as making a steady future turn into an unknown, shaky one. According to USA Today, “[Colleges] may be more likely to revoke an offer of admission to those who haven’t maintained top grades or fallen short in some other way… Those who slack off will find themselves last in line.” Regardless of whether your admissions application is flawless and perfect, colleges will still keep a very close eye on you and can still deny you admission. What if you fall into the disease and unfortunately gotten worse, what can you do?

How to prevent and get back up from Senioritis?

Well the remedy can be tough, but there are some solutions. First, try preventing ever falling into Senioritis.  Get your “cootie-shot” which consists of books, energy, motivation and devotion!  Always remember that even though you’ve already been accepted or have sent your final letters in, high school is not over yet! Continue being involved but don’t overwork yourself too much like you have for the passed 3 years. Many youth-serving organizations like College Board and the National Youth Leadership Council believe that participating in service-learning programs could help motivate seniors. These programs include getting involved in the community through internships, community partnerships and community service. These programs believe that seniors are most likely to be down about high school because they want to leave and experience what’s outside, and what better way of gaining experience than actually getting out there!

Good Luck!

We need to wake up, and continue working until our high school days are over! There is a reason we have 12 grades and we can’t let Senioritis take over our world and cause us to get rid of a grade and dumb down. Get your Senioritis-shot and keep going! I wish all of you seniors good luck and don’t let this disease take over your future and well being!

Diary: My Sister Has Autism

Growing up my life has been a little different from the lives of others. I’ve grown up with a loving mother, a caring father, and a very special sister. We live in complete happiness and fight almost all the average day to day tasks that everyone else faces. What makes my life so different? My older sister was born with autism, a developmental disorder that delays communication and thought process skills. My sister’s brain comprehends things slower than the average 18 year old girl; her mental capacity is like a 4 year old instead of a teenager’s. Autism isn’t necessarily something you can “get” and reasons for having autism are still unknown to doctors today.

My parents told me that my sister was always a quiet baby. She would never cry or make a fuss when she was upset and she would sleep a lot. After finding out that my sister had autism, my parents weren’t sure whether or not to have another baby, but surprise, surprise! I unexpectedly came into the picture. Everyone was a little hesitant for my parents to have a second daughter because they all believed that I wouldn’t have a “normal” childhood. Boy were they right. Mine was a lot more different, but special!

When I was born, unlike my sister, I was loud and made sure that others knew when I was upset! I am very different from my sister. From the day we met, we’ve been inseparable! Although Rebecca is a year older than me, she learned how to walk and talk around the same time that I did when we were younger. According to my mom, ‘Becca would learn how to do things by copying me. It was as if I was “her little teacher.”

I also taught my sister how to laugh. Yes, to laugh! Something that happens everyday to most of us was a struggle for my sister to express. You see, because autism delays communication skills, its very hard for people with autism to express themselves. A simple laugh calls for a big celebration at my house! My family had just bought a new camera and we were posing for countless pictures. I kept fooling around and making funny faces. When my parents laughed at my silly gestures, my sister joined in and started laughing hysterically! We all stopped for a second and just starred in awe! Rebecca was laughing! In that moment, my dad clicked the best picture! I still carry a copy of that old 1990’s picture with my sister’s thick rimmed glasses and happy bright smile. It reminds me that even though the smallest things can be a struggle, they can happen with enough patience and faith.

Rebecca’s lack of communication skills has not only made my family and I have a bigger appreciation for the little things (like smiling and laughing), but has also taught us to be more cautious. Lack of communication doesn’t allow us to know when Rebecca is hurt or sick. When ‘Becca was 5 fell from her bed and had a hairline fracture on her tibia. She did not tell us how much pain she was in and we didn’t know about her injury until weeks later when she had a regular check up with her doctor and her leg was already healing. It can be a bit frustrating and hard to figure out how my sister feels or what’s going on through her mind.

When I was younger, I remember always playing Barbies with my sister. Even though she didn’t understand my fantasy princess world, she still made an effort to play. It would get a little frustrating when she would, unpurposely, knock over my doll house furniture set that I had spent hours setting up. My cousin Chris help me create a new game by making Barbie have “super powers” to jump high over the knocked over table or lift the entertainment set back up. My cousin stayed with us while his mom worked and he was the brother that I never had. Together, we shared the same love for my sister and we helped each other when one of us was getting too frustrated. No matter how patient you are, autism is hard to understand and can be especially frustrating for little kids.

Our life has consisted of many doctors from regular pediatricians to psychologists to neurologists. Over the years, unfortunately, autism wasn’t the only battle that my family and I had to face. There was a time when Rebecca had experienced seizures. It was very painful and hard to watch my sister shake uncontrollably with the power to do nothing to help. After many tests, Rebecca’s neurologist was able to give her medicine to stop the seizures. Rebecca is also legally blind with tunnel vision and has very poor peripheral sight. For a while, she’d grab my arm for support when walking and I’d tell her “step” at stairs. Now, she has learned how to be more independent with a cane.

My sister and I went to the same elementary school and her teacher was amazing; Mrs. Jaquez was the best special ed teacher anyone could find. She taught my sister the alphabet and how to improve her communication skills. She was very nice and got me very involved in the class too! I would volunteer with Mrs. Jaquez’s class over the summer and I had learned a lot more about children with disabilities. Soon I became the “go-to-girl” if any of my friends wanted to know “why that kid was acting that way,” or “what is a disability.” At a very young age, I was teaching others new things about something that was so normal to me. Then middle school came and Rebecca went to a different school, but we were reunited again when high school rolled around. I would walk her to her class. We’d bump into each other and have a celebratory hello, and at the end of the day she’d tell me all the details about her day.

I will admit that sometimes it can be a little hard with my sister and can get a little lonely too. I’ve learned to be a more independent because a lot of my parent’s attention was focused on my sister when we were growing up. I’ve also had to learn from my own mistakes. I can’t necessarily go up to my older sister for advice on boys or clothes, so for peer advice I turn to friends.

Although at moments I wish I had a “normal” older sister, I am very thankful for the sister I have today! Even though she’s different, she’s still like any other teenage girl. She still gets awkwardly nervous around a cute boy and loves to listen to the latest “cool” music. She’s never ceases to amaze me with some of the funny comments she comes up with and sometimes, I promise you, she’s a lot smarter than you think!

Although many family members have called me my sister’s “little teacher,” I have to say that she is the one who has taught me the most. She’s taught me to be more understanding of others, more patient and more considerate of others. She’s taught me about others with disabilities and has introduced me to a lot of very special people. She’s taught me to learn how to be more independent. She’s actually intrigued me to become a writer and possibly physiatrist to figure out the wonders of the brain. She’s taught me how to appreciate the little things, but most importantly she’s taught me how to truly live! Whatever is in the holding for Rebecca’s future, I know that it will defiantly have me in it. We will, like we have always been, be inseparable!

Finding True Love in High School

Holding HandsMy two best friends and I love to get together, buy a bunch of junk food, rent lots of chick flicks and talk at each other’s houses. Of course, the topic of boys quickly comes into the conversation. The three of us have very different opinions about boys and high school love. Like many teenage girls, we believe and hope to someday have our handsome, muscular, smart prince charming swoop in and declare his love for us. Until then, we live the experience of greasy, pimpley, silly high school boys. When you think about it, Mr. Prince Charming was once a teenager too. Could we have possibly found our true love in high school? My best friends and I have don’t share the same view on this topic. Who do you side with?

True Love Can be Found Anytime – Loving Alexia’s Opinion:
My best friend, Alexia, the pretty, hazel eyed, outgoing girl, always has a new boy to talk about! And she always feels that she has fallen madly in love with the newest one. Girls like my best friend Alexia believe that true love can be found anywhere, anytime, and at any age. She believes in the whole “high school sweetheart” and falling in love at our age of 15, 16, 17 and 18.

Saray Argumedo is like Alexia. When asked about high school love she said, “When love is in the air, nobody can stop us from inhaling it! High school relationships can happen. Why not, I’ve seen it happen. If the couple is open to changes then by all means live happily ever after! Love is having the ability to fly.” Alexias are the type of girls who are very fun and outgoing and open to letting themselves fall. They love being in love: the butterflies, the flirting, the giggling, the phone calls, and the seriousness of a relationship. Well, I guess you could say we’re all Alexias at one point. These girls are in love with falling in love.

Love in High School Isn’t Likely – Smart Nancy’s Opinion:
My other best friend Nancy, the cute, stylish, funny girl, goes through boys but isn’t so “fairy-tale” about them; although she still believes her true love is out there. She probably has the most sane idea about high school love between the three of us. Nancy, feels that it’s not likely to fall in love now, but that it can happen.

Sonia Rangel is like Nancy. She agrees with the idea that high school students are “Not too young or too naive, but they have so much more to learn. Their life is barely starting and they shouldn’t rush into anything. Love takes time. At first, the person may seem perfect, but you should really get to know a person before saying that you love each other. Yes, I believe high school relationships can last after graduation. It may not be easy but it’s possible.” Nancys are the type of girls who go cautiously through their relationships, but with enough time, they are willing to fall. They take their time to get to know the guy and once they’re comfortable with them, its easy for them to accept their feeling of love.

High School is Just Puppy Love – Cautious Vanessa, My Opinion:
And then there’s me, the smart, normal, shy girl, who feels that boys come and go, but “love” is not part of the equation. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in love, but I’m not so convinced it can be felt in high school. Ytzel McDaniel, is like me! She said, “I think puppy love is the most common type of love in high school. Many times high school students can’t tell the difference between a healthy type of love and a destructive one. You can become infatuated quickly and that can lead to love. I know lots of people, and I myself, have felt that feeling of always wanting to be with someone 24/7 and don’t get bored of them very quickly, but I don’t think that’s love.

About high school relationships after graduation: no, sorry I don’t believe they last. There are two scenarios that could happen. First, long distance relationships are almost close to impossible to survive. Secondly, I have never met a truly happy couple that were “high school sweethearts” to me they seem content, but not happy. Love is a lot of things….but I don’t really feel like I am experienced enough to answer this just yet.” You see, girls like me have gone through enough high school, hormone-crazed guys (even though they’re barely teenagers) to realize that they’re not really the “prince charming” that you can fall in love with yet. We’re too young to be thinking of marriage right now, so we’re too young to be thinking of love right now. We fall in “like” instead of falling in love and are a lot more cautious about who we’ll open up to. We’re a bit more boarded up but we believe that love will come when we’re much older and the boys (and ourselves) have a matured a bit more.

Do You Believe in High School Love?
The topic of high school love has been a big debate between the three of us, but they are always interesting and fun! I feel it’s good that the three of us have such different opinions because whenever we have a problem with a guy, we can easily tell each other and hear all the different options and opinions. What is your opinion? A loving Alexia, a smart Nancy, or a cautious Vanessa?