Youth and Debate: Building Skills for the Future
By Jennifer L. Curtis, Senior Recovery Manager, St. Louis August 05, 2015 10:15 AM
Giving my time to help people means meeting my full potential and helping them reach theirs. When the opportunity to volunteer as a judge with the St. Louis Urban Debate League presented itself, I figured, “Why not?” Volunteering had previously given me an inexplicable sense of accomplishment. I had never volunteered in this capacity before, and I enjoy new experiences and building new relationships so signing up made sense. Now, as a third-time volunteer with the league, the experience has been inspiring and informative—for both me and the students.
The St. Louis Urban Debate League, part of the National Associations of Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL), is a national organization dedicated to expanding debate opportunities among urban high schools. Through the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress program, NAUDL is engaging urban debate leagues from across the country to strengthen, support and propel debate to the forefront of youth engagement and garner recognition as a viable tool for post-secondary preparedness.
As a judge, I listened to the students as they debated with each other and presented their opposing cases. I then had to pick the winning team and ensure that my final feedback for the students was specific. This required me remaining unbiased and listening to both cases with an open mind, which was critical in making a fair decision. This experience improved my observation and listening skills, which I have carried into my everyday life.
At Citi, I serve as a Senior Recovery Manager in Mortgage Default where I manage quality control teams to ensure adherence with state and federal regulatory guidelines. I’m responsible for providing coaching, direction, and guidance within my own work group. This skill-set was useful in being able to provide the NAUDL students feedback that would lend to their growth and development. After each debate, I tried to instill in the students that mistakes are simply lessons learned, that they should learn from their mistakes and let the experience make them stronger. It’s something I’ve had to learn in my career and wisdom I eagerly passed on.
Based on the feedback from the students, they were excited to have a diverse presence within the judging pool. Many of them expressed gratitude for my continued involvement as a judge. They now recognize me at the events and come up to chat about what is going on in their lives. I am glad to serve as a positive example for these young people, who are so driven to succeed. They are motivated and want to have successful futures. They’re well on their way. My goal is to give them the confidence and encouragement to keep going.