The Student News Site of Ottoson Middle School

The Ottoson Insider

The Student News Site of Ottoson Middle School

The Ottoson Insider

The Student News Site of Ottoson Middle School

The Ottoson Insider

Photo courtesy of Arlington High School Building Project.
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Spotlighting Isobel Maksoudian: The National Debate Tournament Winner

Completing an undefeated run in the semifinals and emerging victorious in the National Speech and Debate Tournament, Arlington High Schooler Isobel Maksoudian has showcased her diligence and resolve on a national stage.


Early on, Isobel knew she had a knack for debate. As she remarks,”…arguing in general and speech and debate had always been something I was interested in.” However, it wasn’t until her freshman year that Isobel officially joined debate with a group of friends. As she describes it, she “…fell in love with it immediately. It’s an amazing activity.” Despite heading into organized debate without any prior experience, Isobel found ample support within her club, noting that “…even though at the time we didn’t have a coach, this sort of facilitated and increased my involvement and improvement over the course of my freshman year.”  Isobel went on to assume the role of captain starting in her junior year and continuing through this year as well. 


The transition to BQ (Big Questions style debate) was initially spurred following a grant secured by senior captains through the Arlington Education Foundation. This facilitated the hiring of coach Donald Broussard, who remotely guided the team from Louisiana. “…he was sort of the one to prompt our involvement in Big Questions debate during my sophomore year as well,” notes Isobel. Furthering her debate experience, Isobel and some others hosted a small Big Questions debate tournament which was ultimately a success, propelling her to the district competition encompassing all of New England. Approaching the debate, “…without any real expectations but just the hope of performing well,” Isobel and Clara, the current co-captain of debate, did just this, going undefeated and qualifying for Nationals. Her participation in BQ, she notes, was cultivated by the strong foundation laid during her earlier years in Lincoln Douglas.


“…it’s the best form of debate to start in,” Isobel remarks. “It gives you such a strong foundation as you approach these different debate rounds as an individual, relying more on your own sense of critical thinking and your own argument generation …this definitely gave me the skills to become more successful later on.”


One decisive factor in your debate performance lies in meticulous preparation. As Isobel states, “One of my misconceptions coming into debate was that everything is improvised and you have only a couple minutes before the round to brainstorm – and then you are sort of thrust into it.” Regardless of the format—Public Forum, Lincoln Douglas, or Big Questions—you come into the debate already having prewritten your case. This is a big portion of the preparation, says Isobel, adding that “…crafting a case and assembling the different resources and pieces of evidence together is critical, as well as making sure that your case is comprehensive and effective at arguing your point across to the judge and your opponent.” She highlights that practice with rebuttals and cross-examination have been an integral part of her preparations, along with night-before practices rereading your cases. Ultimately, “You get out what you put in.” Isobel reflects. “…It’s truly an activity where the amount of effort you put into your preparation and writing your cases is directly correlated to your success in the event.”


While preparations are one thing, being in the heat of debate poses a new set of tools and strategies. “…It’s sort of like you’re super stressed out before your debate round … as soon as I start my constructive speech my stress sort of evaporates immediately, you go into debate mode.” As she puts it, you’re “…half listening to what they’re saying, the other half coming up with rebuttals to their points. You have to engage all parts of your mind and all parts of your critical thinking skills to get down all your opponent’s points.”  Isobel adds that it’s crucial to think about how their argument could clash with yours – and how to utilize and manipulate this clash to ultimately support your case. “…It’s definitely a skill I developed while in debate,” Isobel remarks.


Going beyond merely a recreational activity, debate supplies you with the tools applicable in everyday life: “Most notably my presentation skills have gotten better,” says Isobel. In middle school, Isobel struggled with public speaking, as do most people. However, through debate Isobel honed the ability to articulate thoughts effectively and break down ideas to communicate to others. The judges “come in with varying levels of experience, some of them are masters on the topic and have a lot of experience with it, but others have never heard about this policy or action before in their life so you really have to break it down for them.” Being able to explain things to people constructively without a baseline knowledge is critical. This proficiency, Isobel notes, extends beyond debate, lending itself to countless other areas of your life and academic subjects.


With imparting words of advice for new debaters here at Ottoson, Isobel recounts her own start in debate: “I lost my first round and I was a little bit discouraged but you just have to keep going… with every debate round you complete, you’re becoming more of an expert.” Isobel explains that it’s important for people to recognize the impact that participation in speech and debate has on the rest of your life. “You’re building more of these foundational skills that not only serve you during college or in any careers that you pursue.” It involves lots of critical thinking, offering you  “…one of the most important skills you can have just as a human being, and it will serve you anywhere your life takes you.” Participation in speech and debate presents you with an edge, something that “…you’ll see the benefits of for years to come.”


From claiming victories in local tournaments to winning nationals and traveling to Phoenix, Arizona, Isobel Maksoudian has been a testimony to the significance of steadfast work and dedication. 


 –  Congratulations Isobel on your big win!  


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About the Contributors
Sara L., Editor
Sara L is an editor in the Ottoson Insider. She enjoys playing the piano, writing, and running. She also participates in NHD and orchestra, and enjoys spending time with friends and family.
Sonya S., Journalist
Sonya S is a journalist here at the Insider. In her free time she enjoys being a couch potato with a bag of doritos in hand staring at the TV.

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    Iris TothJan 10, 2024 at 9:52 am

    Good job Sonya and Sara.