Mean Green Comet Debate Institute

Middle School

What to Expect

Our staff has worked with high school and middle school students for decades. We pride ourselves on setting the standard for debate training everywhere. With this model, we are dedicated to providing superior summer instruction in competitive speech and debate for middle school students.

Solid Foundations Built with Contemporary Instruction

Competing on today's speech and debate circuits require the ability to blend an understanding of traditional concepts with an eagerness to explore new ideas and strategies.

Our senior teaching staff were selected because of their experience as classroom teachers who demonstrate a commitment to mastering changing practices. Building champions requires low teacher-student ratios, high quality practice sessions, and one-on-one attention. Our classroom sessions are led by 2 or more instructors with a limit of 12 students. Students learn research, writing, and presentation skills and engage in daily practice. Our balanced approach ensures students have the most well rounded experience possible.

Setting the Standard

As middle school debate continues to grow in the area and around the country, we are proud to be among the first to offer a summer program for competitive debate at the highest level. Our staff has more than a decade of experience directing one of the nation's leading speech and debate workshops. Alumni have enjoyed incredible success at local, regional, and national level competitions at the high school and college levels and have matriculated to some of the finest colleges in the world.

Purposeful lessons allow us to establish high standards targeted at building solid foundations reinforced through practice. Students in competitive debate at the middle school level excel over their peers in areas of critical thinking, close reading of literature, and writing. The confidence gained through participation positively affects students in all areas of their academic and social lives.

Student-Centered Instruction

Students are divided into small “labs” based on their experience which mimic classrooms and which are led by two or more instructors. Our goal is to place our most experienced teachers alongside contemporary champions in each event in order to provide a well-rounded approach to learning. Instruction is tailored to the individual student with the goal of meeting students where they are and guiding them along their own competitive paths.

Lab Sessions:

  • 1-week Intro to Debate (Oratory, Extemp, Congress, Public Forum)
  • 10 Day Intermediate Lincoln-Douglas Debate
  • 10 Day Advanced Lincoln-Douglas Debate
  • 10 Day Public Forum Debate
  • 10 Transition to High School Lincoln Douglas Debate

Director's Statement

Dear Parents and Coaches,

As the parent of teenage children embarking on their own young speech and debate careers, it gives me great excitement to work with the University of North Texas and University of Texas at Dallas to create a championship middle school debate workshop targeting a nationwide audience.

Finding a winning program for students at this age can be difficult. As a parent, I worried that sending my child away to camp too soon or to the “wrong program” would involve too much risk. I want my own children to work hard and achieve high expectations, but I also want their experience to be fun and enjoyable.

Students often find a spark in speech and debate because of their connections to their peers, and a successful workshop should allow students to build and foster future competitive relationships with other students. Emotional and social growth is just as important to me as competitive success.

As a teacher, I’ve had the incredible experience of working to build successful middle school speech and debate programs, including the program at The Hockaday School in Dallas. I understand that students at this age have needs that set them apart from students of other ages. Our teachers have considerable competitive experience, patience, and the skill and talent to help encourage and grow young minds.

You can take comfort knowing that both UNT and UTD take the safety of young students very carefully. Trust that our experienced teachers will provide a welcoming and invigorating environment that is both challenging and encouraging. We all have a lot at stake here, and I want to build a workshop that inspires the success of your children as well as my own. I look forward to working with you, your schools, your coaches, and your communities as we work together to build the nation’s leading middle school speech and debate workshop.

Divisions, Dates and Pricing

Session Dates Residential
(Room and Meals)
Commuter
(Meals Only)
Lincoln-Douglas Scholars July 8 – July 17 $1600 $1000
Lincoln Douglas Intermediate July 8 – July 17 $1600 $1000
Public Forum July 8 – July 17 $1600 $1000
Middle School Intro July 17 – July 22 $1000 $800
Middle School Juniors July 17 – July 22 $1000 $800

Session Descriptions

Introduction to Middle School Debate

This session is designed for middle school students (grades 6-8) with no competitive speech/debate experience. Students will work in low ratios with experienced classroom teachers to discover the world of forensics. Consistent with our philosophy, we will focus on helping students develop a love of expressing themselves in a competitive environment while also offering a rigorous environment to improve academic skills. Concentrations include speech delivery & organization, research, and writing. Before the end of the week, students will write an Original Oratory, prepare a set of Extemporaneous Speaking research files, and deliver impromptu, extemp, and oratory speeches in a competitive format. Evening activities will focus on providing students a break while also exploring concepts important to their development during this week. The introductory session is sure to provide a balanced experience that sends students home eager to continue exploring speech and debate during the school year.

Middle School Public Forum Debate

This program will concentrate exclusively on Public Forum Debate and is suitable for students who have already participated in a year of debate or more who know they want to explore PF further. Intermediate and Advanced students will be evaluated upon arrival and separated for more intensive sessions through the week. Consistent with our focus on balance, students in this workshop will concentrate on speaking, presentation, and delivery at the same time they work on improved research, argumentation, case writing, and scenario construction. Students will also learn foundations of advanced argumentation in PF debate and how to work with arguments being advanced in contemporary national-circuit Public Forum debate rounds. The goal of this session is to help students develop the skills necessary to propel themselves forward in both Middle and High School public forum debate tournaments.

Middle School LD Debate – Intermediate

This program will concentrate exclusively on Lincoln Douglas Debate. This program is suitable for students who have already participated in one years of debate or more. Participants in the intermediate workshop will have the option to compete in a tournament ending the week. Consistent with our focus on balance, students will focus on building a strong foundation rooted in traditional Lincoln Douglas debate combined with an intensive concentration on arguments more recently popular in the event. Students will focus on: research, case writing, value/criteria, theory, foundations of philosophy, framework, ethics, persuasion, critical theory (writing/answering kritik arguments), and how to work with policy arguments.

Middle School LD Debate – Advanced

This program will concentrate exclusively on Lincoln Douglas Debate. This program is suitable for students who have already participated in two years of debate or more. Participants in the advanced workshop will have the option to compete in a tournament ending the week. Consistent with our focus on balance, students will focus on building a strong foundation rooted in traditional Lincoln Douglas debate combined with an intensive concentration on arguments more recently popular in the event. Students will focus on: research, case writing, value/criteria, theory, foundations of philosophy, framework, ethics, persuasion, critical theory (writing/answering kritik arguments), and how to work with policy arguments.

Transition to High School Lincoln Douglas Debate

This session is designed for rising ninth graders who have completed some Middle School debate (or camp) and plan to compete in Lincoln Douglas debate at the High School level. While attending lecture sessions with students in the Advanced LD session, these students will also be separated for individual focus and attention specially designed to move them forward. Consistent with our focus on balance, students will focus on building a strong foundation rooted in traditional Lincoln Douglas debate combined with an intensive concentration on arguments more recently popular in the event. Students will focus on: research, case writing, value/criteria, theory, foundations of philosophy, framework, ethics, persuasion, critical theory (writing/answering kritik arguments), and how to work with policy arguments.

Division Director

Dr. Jason Sykes

Dr. Jason Sykes

Dr. Sykes is the Director of Speech & Debate at Denton's Guyer High School. He has coached debate since 1997, and he worked at several summer institutes before establishing UNT's Mean Green Workshops, which he directed for 12 years. His students are highly decorated across several events. Their accomplishments include participation in late elimination rounds at major tournaments in Texas and across the country. They have won Glenbrooks, Harvard, and the Tournament of Champions, among other honors. At the St. Mark's tournament in 2006, Jason was presented with the Acolyte Award, which is given annually to the outstanding associate director of debate in the nation.

Since 2003, Dr. Sykes has taught at DFW schools including The Hockaday School, Grapevine, and Southlake Carroll. He served on the TFA Executive Council from 2005 to 2009 and the Lone Star NFL District Committee from 2007 to 2009.

Jason competed in Policy Debate at the University of North Texas. He won several tournaments and speaker awards and advanced to the elimination rounds of more than two-dozen events, including the National Debate Tournament in 2002 and four CEDA National Championship tournaments, where he was honored as an All-American in 2002 and fifteenth speaker in 2000.

Dr. Sykes recently completed his PhD in Information Science at UNT. A native of Nacogdoches, Texas, he lives in Denton with his wife Naomi and their two children.

Division Staff

Breann Smith

Breann Smith

Assistant Lincoln Douglas Coach, Guyer High School

Breann debated from 2012-2016 at Liberty Christian School in Argyle, Texas on both the local and national circuits. Locally, she qualified to TFA State her sophomore, junior, and senior years, collecting a total of 85 career state points and winning various locals. Nationally, she qualified for the TOC; earning bids by winning Holy Cross and reaching semifinals at Isidore Newman. Also on the national level, she qualified for NSDA Nationals both her junior and senior years in Lincoln Douglas. In addition, she was invited to multiple round robins, including the Hockaday Women’s Round Robin (twice), the Kandi King Round Robin, Holy Cross’ “Big Brass” Round Robin, The Florida Blue Key Round Robin, and Texas Debate Collective’s Round Robin.

Julian Gagnon

Asian Debate League

Julian is part-owner of the Asian Debate League and has spent the past few years coaching debate in Taipei. He is a former debater from Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Florida. In high school, he cleared at Emory and Stanford and became the first debate team from his school to receive a TOC bid. He was a top ten speaker at FSU and the Florida Blue Key, receiving second place at the Blue Key Round-Robin. In college, he debated for the University of North Texas, clearing at the University of Kentucky, Wake Forest, Northwestern, and numerous other national tournaments, as well as receiving an invitation to the Kentucky Round-Robin.

Julian coached the semi-finalists at the 2002 and 2005 Tournaments of Champions, and the second and fourth speakers there in 2004 and 2005. While working with Highland Park High School, Julian coached teams who cleared at virtually every national tournament in the country and won countless speaker awards. In 2005, his team won every tournament they attended in California, including Berkeley, USC and Redlands. In 2006, he coached for St. Augustine in San Diego, who cleared at almost every tournament at which they debated, including reaching the semifinals at MBA. He helped build talent as the assistant for both Grapevine and Highland Park. At previous institutes, he received exemplary evaluations. Julian recently coached at Edgemont High School and worked at a private speech and debate tutoring company in New York City.

Amy Jia

Amy Jia

Amy debated for The Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, from 2013 to 2017. As a varsity Lincoln-Douglas debater, she qualified to the TFA State Tournament twice, earning over 30 career state points and regularly reaching late elimination rounds at local tournaments. Amy won the 2015 Royse City Tournament, reached the final round at the 2016 Coppell Tournament, and has won multiple speaker awards throughout her debate career. She enjoys reading, writing, and traveling, and will be a freshman at Harvard University in the fall, where she hopes to major in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Maggie Stein

Maggie Stein

Maggie debated from 2013-2017 at The Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas. She has an extensive background in Lincoln Douglas debate, engaging in both the local and the national circuit. During her freshman year, she began debating at the varsity level. With a total of 563 NSDA points, Maggie has devoted a lot of time to not only debating, but mentoring fellow teammates. She participated in the Hockaday Women’s Round Robin during her sophomore year. Dabbling in extemporaneous speaking and PFD, Maggie is a well-rounded debater. She has advanced to elimination rounds at most of the tournaments she has attended and has won many speaker awards.

Toby Whisenhunt

Director of Debate, Highland Park ISD for 12 years.

Toby has qualified teams for the CX UIL State tournament in 11 of those years, making it to elimination rounds frequently and semifinals once. He also has had a student advance to the semifinals of the UIL State Tournament in Lincoln Douglas. He has qualified numerous teams for the Texas Forensic Association tournament which includes a top speaker and a state championship in Cross Examination. He has qualified teams for the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky and had debaters advance to elimination rounds. He developed and implemented the middle school debate curriculum at Highland Park ISD and regularly fields teams of 7th and 8th graders who successfully compete at high school competitions. His passion for debate, ability to connect with students, and skill of explaining complex concepts in an accessible way makes him an ideal coach for novice and experienced debaters alike.

Jason Courville

Jason Courville

Debate Coach, The Kinkaid School

Jason has been involved in debate since 1995. He debated at University of Texas at Dallas where he cleared at several national tournaments, including CEDA Nationals in 2000. As a coach at Crosby High School, Jason coached three UIL State CX Debate state champions, several state finalists, multiple TOC qualifiers, and elimination round participants at NSDA Nationals. Jason is now at The Kinkaid School where he coaches both middle school and high school debaters. His middle school debaters mainly compete at TFA qualifying tournaments against high school competition.

Enroll Now

MGCDI enrollment will open January 1st 2018! Starting then you can follow the link below to Market Place and reserve your spot in our 2018 summer program. A registration fee of $300.00 is due upon application. Applications after June 1st will incur a $150 late registration fee. The final deadline for all registration is June 18, 2018.

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