RGV Team wins 2015 Texas Great Debate
The team from the Rio Grande Valley won the 2015 Texas Great Debate, held June 11-14 at Austin College in Sherman, Texas — and according to Paco Gonzales, Project Administrator for the winning region, the team “rose to the occasion against strong competition” through what he characterized as superior preparation.
This year’s RGV team was similar to past teams in makeup, with about 75 students from 20 different high schools in the region participating in the event, coached by a staff of 30 NHI alumni. According to Gonzales, coaches are required to go through all three core NHI programs, and the team’s preparation begins with having an experienced coaching squad to guide them.
“The RGV does things a little differently,” said Gonzales in talking about the squad’s Texas Great Debate preparation. Starting in March, the team embarks on a five-week course in Latino studies. Then, when it comes time to assign students to events, it happens via a draft process. As Gonzales explains, “It’s all about where a student’s individual talents lie, and how they can best serve the team. It’s a great lesson for leadership: You go where you’re needed, not necessarily where you want to be.”
The team then goes through six weeks of preparation leading up to the trip to Sherman, including a practice Great Debate at the midway point of the process, in which students compete against each other in a simulation of the real event.
“I think the students have a good idea of what NHI is and what the competition holds for the, so they start off way ahead,” Gonzales noted. “Preparation early on plays a really big role in how well the RGV students do. And, as Ernie says” — referring, of course, to NHI Founder and President Ernesto Nieto — “they’re growing up in an ideal environment, because the mayor, judges, city council members and other leaders are Latinos, and serve as Latino role models that help kids to be not shy and to really know their community.”
Winners in individual categories included:
1st Place, Baylor Watkins, Isabella Canava from El Paso
2nd Place, Lucas Weddle, Zoya Surani from Corpus Christi
All State, Flavia Reyna from Tip of Texas, Giovanna Milano from RGV
1st Place, Nairi Garza from RGV
2nd Place, Daniel Guerra from San Antonio
All State, Marte Rodriguez from Tip of Texas
1st Place, Pierce Davis from El Paso
2nd Place, Andrew McCullen from El Paso
All State, Jose Villareal from El Paso
1st Place, Jared Casarez, Allison Reyna from San Antonio
2nd Place, Aaron Gutierrez, Alexander Valdez from Houston
All State, Alexis Rodriguez and Alexandria Romero from Houston
Those students will be eligible to compete and participate in this year’s Celebracion, which will be held at the Omni Hotel in Dallas this coming November 12-15.