By: Alexis Wright
In the crisp air of the morning, high school students file into the auditorium, chattering about the chance to miss class.
The long walls act as a canvas for mementos of support and inspiration. Posters, noise makers, pom poms and balloons are dispersed through the hands of students.
Visitors' eyes guide from the student-made spirit decor to the main attraction, the stage. Five banners, representing the five participating debate teams, hang from the ceiling: Nova, Ace, Rise, Spark and Impact.
The students seated on the couches below hurriedly review their notes, suck down a Starbucks coffee and trade comments with their team before the opening statements begin.
A hush falls over the crowd as the announcer heads to the podium, with palpable excitement, and passions magnify.
Let the 2017 University High School Debates commence!
The tradition for seniors at UHS to debate foreign and domestic policies started over 30 years ago, with the intention to get students involved in the way the democratic process works.
"We want our students involved," Amy Cislak, principal of UHS says. "They need to be the change they want to see."
The process begins with a research paper in social studies, which translates to a platform for the students to debate.
Students then elect, within their respective classes, the leadership team who will deliver their policy objectives.
The topics range from health care, education and equality to diplomacy, military intervention and humanitarian aid, among many others.
The research for their platforms comes from the cumulative effort of each of the social studies classes. It is a team effort to make an effective argument, and other students take notice.
Many students take special notice of the arguments about policy. "It relates to a lot night now," freshman Abby Parker says. "It's all teenagers going over the topics, not just adults."
The exposure to the debate opens the doors and interest for the younger students to get involved.
"You're learning about the different opinions and seeing both sides of the story," Faith Siepker, freshman, says.
Alas, the debate does not end in victory just yet.
With the end of closing statements, it is left in the hands of the junior class to decide who will reign supreme until next year.
"This is the future generation who will be leading our country," Cislak adds. "If so, we are in very good hands."