Jesse Bartsoff (standing left) and Emily Dawson demonstrated the official parliamentary gesture that signals the speaker on the floor to stop and allow the opposition to ask a question. (Left to right

Trail debaters among B.C.’s best

Trail's highschool debaters have placed high in the ranks in the latest competitions.

Jesse Bartsoff and Emily Dawson are seasoned debaters who are committed to sharing the art of an argument with rules.

The Grade 12 students have been debate team leaders at J.L. Crowe Secondary School for four years and in that time have developed confidence and poise during public speaking competitions and sharpened their research skills for composition of essays.

The twosome mentor a handful of up-and-comers who will take the lead in future debates after the two graduate in six months.

“We are fortunate to have students willing to fill the leadership role to teach the younger students,” said Marilyn Lunde, Crowe teacher librarian and regional coordinator for the Debate and Speech Association of B.C. “I wasn’t familiar with the British Parliamentary format, but the students were, so they jumped right in and made it work.”

Bartsoff is fresh off an 11th place finish with first-time partner Rachel Aiken after the duo competed in a 72-team tournament at the University of British Columbia (UBC) last month.

Aiken is a Grade 10 student with a history of debating on a team from Rossland Secondary School (RSS).

“It is interesting because Rachel is two years younger but strong competition when we debated each other in the past,” said Bartsoff. “We knew each others strengths and weaknesses from previous competitions so UBC was fun and a good learning experience.”

Overall, 144 senior students took part in the senior category with Bartsoff placing 19 individually, and Aiken, after debating women’s rights, placing 25 in a group of 180 junior competitors.

Last week, the Crowe team honed its skills during lunch hour to prepare for a local gathering of debaters hosted by LV Rogers Secondary School in Nelson on Saturday.

The high school troupe and the RSS debate team participated in the third annual tournament that included impromptu-style debates and later in the day, a public speaking competition with topics based on song titles such as Elvis Presley’s “Don’t be Cruel” and Nirvana’s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

The novice topic, for students between Grade 5-8, “Be it resolved that Humpty Dumpty got what he deserved,” seemed simplistic but grew into the idea of going places one shouldn’t and in-depth discussion about the fragility of taking risks, explained Lunde.

Payton Reed and Hannah Klemmensen from Rossland were first as a team, followed by Jessica Smithies and Caitlin Kalendonk of Kinnaird Elementary and third place for Eliza Dawson and Keegan Fry from Crowe.

Individually, Reed and Klemmensen took first and second place followed by Fry in third.

The junior team of Crowe’s Rachel Aiken and Maggie Chan placed first after debating the topic of a bill to include a high school etiquette course in the curriculum and Aven Cosbey and Bronwyn Moore from RSS placed a close second.

Dawson and Bartsoff placed first in the senior division, with Dawson placing first individually and Bartsoff, third.

Ella Meyer, a Crowe debater,  took first in the senior division of the public speaking contest, with Zorn Rose and Tia Huttemann of LVR placing second and third respectively.

The next opportunity for the 12-member debate team to lock horns with local competition is at an inaugural invitational debate tournament at RSS Jan. 18.

Judges are needed for the debates and a full training session will run the morning of the event.

“Please consider helping out,” said Aaron Cosbey, parent sponsor of the RSS team. “Debate is such a great experience for these students but it can’t happen without you.”

For information, call 362-7388 or email or


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