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.

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)
(Meals Only)
MS Lincoln-Douglas July 7 - July 17 $1650 $1100
MS Public Forum July 7 - July 17 $1650 $1100
MS Intro July 7 - July 13 $1000 $700

Session Descriptions

Lincoln Douglas Scholars

This program will concentrate exclusively on Lincoln Douglas Debate and aims to be the most rigorous experience available for Middle School LD debaters. This program will serve highly advanced students who have already participated in two years of debate and have already attended two years of summer workshop. The lectures, strategy sessions, and curriculum will not repeat from previous years. Students will read and assess critical theoretical books and essays, will be required to engage in extensive research and progressive argument and case writing, and will learn how to work with advanced policy arguments. Participants in the advanced workshop will compete in a tournament at the end of the session. This program will provide the same curricular goals as a third-year high school policy debate program, but is tailored for highly successful Middle School Lincoln Douglas Debaters preparing for a competitive tournament schedule.

Lincoln Douglas

This program will concentrate exclusively on Lincoln Douglas Debate and is suitable for students with little to no experience in the activity. Consistent with our focus on balance, students will focus on building a strong foundation rooted in traditional Lincoln Douglas debate. Students will focus on: case writing, value/criteria, foundations of philosophy, persuasion, and how to work with policy arguments.

Public Forum

This program will concentrate exclusively on Public Forum Debate and is suitable for students who have one or less years of experience in PF debate. Students will receive instruction in Public Forum that will provide a foundation for Middle School tournament success. The program has a focus on balance, with a curriculum that concentrates on speaking, presentation, and delivery at the same time teaches research techniques, basic argumentation, and case writing. The goal of this session is to help students develop the skills necessary to propel themselves forward in Middle School public forum debate tournaments.

Middle School Introduction

This session is designed for middle school students (grades 5-8) interested in gaining an introduction to a broad range of speech & debate events and is designed for students with less than 1 year of experience. Students will work in very low ratios with experienced classroom teachers to discover the world of competitive speech and debate. Consistent with our philosophy, we will focus on helping students develop a love of expressing themselves in a competitive environment while also offering an environment to improve academic skills. Concentrations include speech delivery, organization, and writing. Students will prepare and deliver speeches in Original Oratory, Extemporaneous Speaking, impromptu, Public Forum, and/or Congressional debate. Evening activities will focus on providing students with a break while also exploring concepts important to their development during this week. These introductory sessions are sure to provide a balanced experience that sends students home eager to continue exploring speech and debate during the school year.

Division Director

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

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

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.

Chris Agee

Director of Debate, Newman Smith High School

Coach Agee will begin his 25th year of coaching speech and debate at Newman Smith High School this fall. Inducted into the TFA Hall of Fame in 2014, he has dedicated his teaching career to furthering the principles of speech and debate. Adept at simplifying difficult concepts, non-verbal communication, and argument construction, Coach Agee can tailor instruction--in a variety of events-- to different campers at different skill and confidence levels. He is also an avid soccer/football fan and serves as the assistant golf coach at NSHS. This will be his 16th year of instruction at a summer debate institutes.

Erick Berdugo

Director of Debate, South Grand Prairie

Erick has been coaching debate for 30 years. His students have competed at the national tournaments including TOC, MBA Round Robin and the Glenbrooks. When not teaching or coaching the debate team he is also a Physics teacher. He is involved in active scientific research where he has published several research articles in the fields of Physical Chemistry and Crystallography.

Alec Antonakakis

Former Debater, Prosper High School

Alec debated for four years at Prosper High School on both the local and national circuit, primarily in LD. He reached out-rounds at national tournaments from his sophomore to senior year including; Isidore Newman, Stanford, and St. Marks. He also qualified to TFA State three times in LD. His main interests within debate are Post-Structural and Post-Modern literature; however, he has also explored numerous other fields of literature and argumentation.

Micah Thode

Former Debater, Grapevine High School

Micah has debated for 4 years at Grapevine High School, including two years in Policy Debate and two in LD. He has competed in elimination rounds and championed multiple local tournaments in both LD and Policy. He qualified for TFA state his junior and senior year in LD. Micah has competed nationally at several Tournament of Champion qualifiers. He has also debated in elimination rounds at the University of Texas Longhorn Invitational in LD and the Harvard National Forensics Tournament this year in Policy. This year Grapevine debate has started a middle school debate program for the school district where Micah helped teach students skills in Lincoln Douglas.

Celine Wei

Former Debater, Colleyville Heritage High School

Debated at Colleyville Heritage High School for 4 years. 3-time TFA and UIL state qualifier and a NSDA nationals qualification in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Celine has experience with both traditional and progressive arguments, ranging from Kantianism to theory. She also teaches at a middle school debate program almost every week.

Makayla Kovar

Makayla debated for four years at North Mesquite High School where she primarily competed in Lincoln Douglas and CX debate. Makayla was the first to qualify for TFA state from her alma mater in over 30 years. She enjoyed successes in out-rounds at both local and national tournament qualifiers. She continues to judge occasionally on the TFA and UIL circuits and consult for schools in the DFW metroplex. She specializes in critical feminist philosophy and has experience with both traditional and progressive styles of debate. This will be her second year teaching at MGC Middle school camp!

Jayashree Ganesan

Jayashree has debated for 4 years at Coppell High School including 4 years of policy debate. She has qualified for the UIL state tournament twice and has been the vice president and leader of the varsity debate program at Coppell High School. Jayashree has competed at many national qualifiers including St. Marks, Grapevine, and NSDA nats qualifiers and enjoys debating both critical and policy arguments. She also teaches at a middle school debate program in Policy, LD, and other various forms of debate.

Samuel Loh

Sam graduated from Plano West in 2018 where he competed on both the state and national circuit in public forum. He was the assistant public forum coach at Hebron High School during the 2018-2019 season where his teams broke at major Texas bid tournaments such as Grapevine and UT in addition to qualifying for the TFA state tournament within the first two months of the season. He works with a variety of argumentation with notable focus in the progressive end, but he has also helped debaters find local success through building foundational skills and judge adaptation. One of his main goals is to help cultivate an environment where debaters are given the best opportunity to use their skills and work to reap both the best educational and competitive benefits of speech and debate. Sam is looking forward to camp this summer!

Patrick Fox

Five years of competitive speech and debate experience, competing in policy debate for the first half of his career and finishing out the second in LD, staring at Kealing Magnet School in Austin and spending his high school years at Jack C Hays. Throughout his career, he reached elimination rounds in CX and LD at many prestigious state and national-level tournaments such as the Harvard Invitational, Strake Jesuit, TFA and UIL State, Grapevine, Colleyville, Winston Churchill, and the University of Texas, as well as qualifying to the NSDA National Championship once in LD. This fall, he will be debating in policy for the University of Houston and pursuing a degree in journalism. Patrick's background is mostly in policy and critical styles of debate, with emphasis on arguments concerning capitalism, settler colonialism, disability studies, Heidegger, afropessimism, psychoanalysis and semiotics, and the politics disad. He very much believes in the value of debate as an activity, and he's very excited to be working at Mean Green Comet Debate this summer!

Jai Sehgal

Debated for two years at Kempner High School on the local and national circuit, focusing mainly on LD. In LD, he cleared at national tournaments including UH, Strake Jesuit, and Grapevine, where he earned a bid round. He qualified to TFA State twice in LD, where he finished in outrounds his senior year, and qualified to NSDA Nationals twice in CX, where he also reached outrounds. His interest lies mainly within policy arguments, theory debate, and stock kritik arguments.

Nathan Smith

Recent high school graduate from Austin Texas. Throughout their debate career they reached elimination rounds two years at UT, and once at Churchill and Strake Jesuit in addition to qualifying for TFA state two years in a row and breaking their senior year. Nathan is currently taking courses at Austin Community College with plans to peruse Philosophy professionally and has written and presented original work at academic conferences. Nathan specializes in Philosophical and Kritikal debate with emphasis on semiotics, posthuman/animal studies, Levinas, and postmodernism/poststructuralis.

Enroll Now

Click Here to Enroll

MGCDI enrollment is open! Follow the link above to Market Place and reserve your spot in our 2020 summer program. The final deadline for all registration is June 8, 2020.