Debate hosts Aaron Thomas Memorial Invitational

The team’s tournament hosted 400 students from across the Kansas City area

Claire Franke, JagWire reporter/photographer

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The debate team hosted the second annual Aaron Thomas Memorial Invitational, the second largest tournament in the state, at Mill Valley and Monticello Trails Middle School Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16. Around 200 teams from 29 schools from Kansas and Missouri were in attendance.

While Mill Valley debaters did not compete, they helped organize and made sure the event ran smoothly. Students contributed by checking in the attending schools and judges, running concessions stands and by guiding the teams to their rooms. NHS members also volunteered their time to help for community service hours.

Sophomore debate team member Grace Emerson worked at the judges’ table, where she was responsible for checking schools in, handing out important items such as ballots and communicating with other team members to make sure everything is running smoothly in each room.

“It can be very stressful at times because judges sometimes don’t show up,” Emerson said. “We have to find replacements as quickly as possible to keep rounds on time.”

In addition to all of the perks such as a hospitality room filled with snacks, teams were able to visit with therapy dogs from AnimalLife. Three different dogs came to the school throughout the second day of the tournament to help relieve the stress of the debaters, coaches, judges and student volunteers. 

Sophomore debate team member Aly Brown thinks the dogs did help relieve the stress of everyone in attendance.

“I think the service dogs were one of the best ideas [debate coach Sohail] Jouya had came up with for the tournament,” Brown said. “Schools couldn’t get enough of them and neither could us students from Mill Valley.”

The tournament was held in the name and memory of Aaron Thomas. Thomas was a well known debate coach in the Kansas City area and has left a big influence on debate teams since his death in 2015, according to Emerson.

“[Thomas] was very influential in the debate community; he helped schools and programs who didn’t have the money to participate in debate find ways to still enjoy the activity,” Emerson said.

Mill Valley’s debate team has been having tremendous success this year according to both Emerson and Brown, with numerous wins from novice teams to varsity teams. The team hopes to keep up their winning streak at their next tournament Friday, Nov. 22 and Saturday, Nov. 23 at the J. Matt Hill Invitational at Topeka High School.

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