ASU forensics debate team brings home Pacific Championship

March 1, 2017

Arizona State University junior Bren Ram and freshman partner Ryan Ferdowsian, of ASU's forensics debate team, snagged the title of Pacific Champions this past weekend, in a policy debate competition held at the University of Southern California.

Ram and Ferdowsian did not lose a single ballot (12 in all) en route to collecting the title in the Varsity division. Earlier in the week, Pacific region coaches selected Ram and Ferdowsian as representatives to this year's National Debate Tournament, where 78 teams will compete for the national policy championship March 24-27 at the University of Kansas. Ram also placed 4th in the individual speaker awards at the tournament. students holding trophies From left to right: Bren Ram, Ryan Ferdowsian, Nicole Figueroa and Kayla Green Download Full Image

First year students Kayla Green and Nicole Figueroa also flexed their debating muscles in the novice division of the Pacific Championships, placing 3rd overall while collecting 3rd (Figueroa) and 5th (Green) place speaker awards. Novice division is reserved for students with minimal experience in policy debate.

This is Figueroa's and Green's first year of competition in the event. The tournament represents a strong showing by both teams, as the team now prepares for nationals at the end of the season.

The forensics team is part of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

By Adam Symonds, director of forensics

AVID conference prepares high school students for college success

March 1, 2017

Learn to advocate for yourself. That was the message to Arizona high school sophomores during this year’s AVID Conference held annually at Arizona State University. Access ASU welcomed students from across the Valley to interact with ASU students and staff while getting a feel for the campus.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a national program that aims to close the achievement gap by preparing high school students for college success through academic and social support. students sitting around table Local high school students attend ASU's AVID conference. Download Full Image

Through a series of interactive workshops, campus tours and motivational speakers, the conference provided the sophomores in attendance the opportunity to develop their skills as leaders and learn about resources available to them at ASU in order to foster a positive attitude toward higher education. 

Angelica Russo, a second-year AVID teacher at Hamilton High School, said this conference is instrumental in exposing her students to college.

“Many of our kids have never been on a college campus before. They are first-generation students that want to go to school, so we want to show them as much of college life as possible,” Russo said.

“I found AVID during my freshman intro to summer school,” said Ruben Lopez, a sophomore at Trevor Brown High School. “I knew if I wanted to be the first generation to go to college, I needed to be prepared.” 

The students began the day with a lifeboat exercise: they had to determine nine people who would join them on a lifeboat and three who would not. In this activity, they learned the importance of sharing their personal stories in order to self-advocate.

“I’ve been an AVID tutor and instructional assistant, so I’ve seen the perspective of a student. It’s helped me to support them and guide them to explore their own potentials,” said Nathali Rascon Alcantar, an AVID teacher at Trevor Brown High School.

How do you get to campus? How do you find internships? What’s it like having a roommate? What’s your schedule like? ASU SPARKS members fielded these questions, and others, during the conference. They shared their experiences with the AVID students, who hung on to every word. 

SPARKS (Students Providing Awareness Resources & Knowledge to Start College), is a student-led organization promoting access to higher educations throughout the community. It is dedicated to increasing college readiness and awareness. ASU students who volunteer with SPARKS serve as role models and engage with K–12 students at the AVID Conference and a range of other college readiness programs and events presented by Access ASU throughout the academic year.

students posing at photo booth

Future Sun Devils have fun at the AVID conference photo booth.

In the other workshops, the AVID sophomores learned GPA isn’t the only thing that matters during high school; they have to get involved in something outside the classroom while continuing to plan for higher education.

“That was the best part of the day,” Camelback High School student Daniel Mora said. “I was able to learn the requirements for admission to ASU. Now, I can focus on that.”

Mora was encouraged to join AVID in middle school, and said the support he’s received from his teachers and family has been wonderful.

“When you’re feeling down, or need help in a subject, they reach out to you. They really help,” he said.

“AVID students and their like-minded peers have the talent, will and determination to be the first in their families to earn their college degrees," said Sylvia Symonds. “With the support of AVID and ASU, they can learn to thrive.”

By Will Argeros, Educational Outreach and Student Services