PASSION and commitment has proven the winning formula for Greenwood College debating students in an inspiring underdog story.
The team of five Year 8 students have stormed undefeated into tonight’s WA Debating League novice grand final against Perth Modern School.
Asmaa Hameed, Jacque Walters, Cyrine Almodovar, Konrad Dumpleton and Ann Cao had not debated before this year and their story is more impressive as three of the five members come from non-English speaking homes.
The team formed late last year after Year 11 student and coach Marcel Masqu Salgado approached teachers Ela Amor-Robertson and Alison McDonald to start a school debating club.
They began learning about debating via the league handbook, YouTube videos and Ms Amor-Robertson’s firsthand experience.
The group and teachers met weekly throughout the year and devoted after school hours and weekends to preparing.
“We’ve been very thankful to get as far as we have,” Ms Amor-Robertson said.
“I feel just amazed and incredibly proud…it’s not about winning…these students have a genuine passion for learning, for participating in extra-curricular activities and we’re proud to be able to offer that to them.
“I don’t know what the key to success has been, it’s just worked. I guess passion is the answer.”
The team was among more than 160 competing from schools including Presbyterian Ladies College, Christ Church Grammar School, St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls and Scotch College.
Ms Amor-Robertson said it had been “at times intimidating” but the students had adopted a motivating motto.
“We say that before each debate, ‘We’re nervous but we’re empowered’,” she said.
“It’s so incredible the transformation some of the students have undergone.
“I think they’re just very bright and capable students and on top of that they’re just committed to this as an extracurricular activity.”
She said Greenwood was a multicultural school so the team reflected that.
“It’s something quite noticeable about our kids but it’s not defining them as far as they’re concerned,” she said.
Asmaa knew only a few words of English when she moved to Australia from Iraq two and a half years ago and Ms Amor-Robertson praised her progress.
“Her skills are a tribute to her hard work and her intelligence,” she said.
“She recognises in herself she’s come a long way.”
The students have taken to the activity, which Konrad said had improved his organisational, teamwork, writing and research skills.
“It’s pretty satisfying being able to express your speech and being able to rebut other team’s points,” he said.
“It’s really surprising, we did not think we would make it this far.”
Cyrine said she joined the team out of curiosity and was “swept up in it”.
“It’s such a broad spectrum of skills you learn, the thing I most enjoy is the research part about it, you learn so much about the world,” she said.
“The build up is the worst part definitely, once you get there it is a sea of calmness.
“We were more expecting to win two or three of the division rounds…it’s blown our minds.”