Keyala O’Neal loves to participate in debate competitions and is excelling in speech and debate at McNicol Middle School.

Janell McLeod is the speech and debate teacher at McNicol Middle School.

“It’s fun to go to competitions and to meet new friends. I have fun and I am learning real life skills in debate,” O’Neal said.

Tyran McGinley also loves being in the debate program. “It gives me a chance to express myself and to learn how to use words effectively. I have learned to see different sides of an issue,” he said.

Abigail Rojas said, “I love to make speeches and I can give speeches here.”

Arnold McNeal said he too enjoys giving impromptu speeches.

They are all students in the speech and debate program at McNicol Middle School, which is taught by Janell McLeod. Some of the students in the class participate in monthly competitions against teams from other schools. It is part of a large initiative by the Broward Schools Superintendent to offer debate to every public school, including those in middle and elementary school. So far, all the middle and high schools have speech and debate, as well as 31 elementary schools.

Students in the middle of a debate presentation at McNicol Middle School.

McLeod says she loves teaching speech and debate and runs the class with enthusiasm. Recently she had students pick topics from a bowl and develop arguments for or against a topic. The students enjoyed debating topics such as, Should be vegetarians? And, Should students be required to wear uniforms? The students gave their speeches with enthusiasm.

“The students are learning to how give speeches and learning how to debate. These are important life skills,” said McLeod.

The competitions feature various categories, such as declamation, original oratory, public forum, policy debate and other activities. As a result of the school district’s emphasis on speech and debate, more students are getting involved.

McNicol Middle School principal Melissa Gurreonero is pleased with the debate program. “We started debate last year and many students have become involved. I love this program and I believe it teaches valuable life skills to students,” she said.