After just two minutes of preparation, Rebecca Kalendarev was able to deliver a five-minute speech about a quote she had read for the first time just two minutes ago. As a member of the Speech and Debate Society at Queens College (QC), this was for her what a warm-up would be to a runner. The Speech and Debate team at QC, led by alumnus Randy Perez, is focused on delivering a promising experience to its student members that hone their public speaking presentation skills, aid their community service work, strengthen their ability to access and relay knowledge and boosts their confidence.
The team is involved in this year’s National Competition for Speech and Debate at Hofstra University; this is the first time in twenty-five years a Speech and Debate team from QC has participated in a national event.
Because of their membership with the American Debate League, students are cultivating critical thinking skills, advocating for the community and building leadership skills as debate instructors. Through this partnership, members of the team are involved in helping students from high schools and other organizations from Queens and Long Island interact with speech, debate and public speaking.
“Yes the tournaments are fun, but they feel almost selfish. Working with the American Debate League gives us an opportunity to give back. These experiences have taught me a lot of patience,” Kalendarev explained, while talking about the American Debate League.
Perez, director, mentioned his previous involvement with a Speech and Debate team at Nassau Community College and one at Columbia University and how it was a capstone for his college experience. He spoke about how he was able to find a voice and grow as an individual. Upon his transfer to Queens College, he was surprised to find there was no debate club, and he took it upon himself to start one to share his amazing experience with other students of QC.
“Join us, why not… [speech and debate] do not only serve as valuable career experience but a great way to learn to face your fears,” Perez said, when questioned about what students can gain from joining the club.
“I’m not shy anymore. I can look my professors in the eye and talk to them. I can confidently say I am not afraid of talking to people older than me,” Kalendarev said.
Speech and Debate foster educated conversations and discussions about current events and about controversial issues that affect broad audiences in society, such as congestion pricing. Participation in this club has even inspired a former member to further the issues debated on, through public advocacy with her work in the CUNY Queens College New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).
Involvement in the club is as rewarding as it is time-consuming. Members of the team are expected to practice outside of club time. During the competitive season, roughly September to December, and February to March, practice is held in Kiely Hall 316 on Mondays and Wednesdays during free hour. It also includes weekend trips to debate competitions, many times in different states, and on-campus events. In addition, while joining the club does not require you to be an expert in current events or public issues; it certainly helps in the activities, but a lack of expertise should not be a deterring factor towards prospective members.
“I’m not going to fly someone halfway across the country just to do a half-baked job. We compete against some of the toughest debate teams in the country. Their A-game is on an eleven,” Perez shared.
Upcoming events include the Showcase of Champions to be held on Tue. Mar 19 on the QC campus in the Q-Side Lounge and President’s Hall. The event will display performances of impromptu speaking, international public debate, persuasion and more.
The club is also offering debate and public speaking workshops for students this semester. A debate workshop will happen on Mar. 27 and April 17 during club hour at the Student Union in the lower level (LL) 32. New member orientations will be held during club hour in Kiely Hall 316 on Mar. 27 as well. Although the team is small in number, its members have formed a tight interconnected community dedicated to their passion for speech and debate. For more information, contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org or on their website: qcspeechsociety.com.