Podiums

Describe an extracurricular activity that has impacted you.

I used to hate podiums so much that whenever I stepped up to one to deliver a speech or present a project, I would clutch the sides and tremble as my nerves reverberated in my stomach.Now I love them.After participating in public forum debate for three years, the thought of stating my positions on an issue no longer fills me with dread; it genuinely excites me. Whenever I approach a podium, I recall all of the times when I have been in a debate round and the sense of power and passion that comes from knowing and being able to dispute all sides of an issue. I remember the shock of winning my first tournament, the elation from placing seventh at the National Championship, and the pride I feel now as captain of my team, teaching younger members the subtleties of debate. It is difficult to quantify just how much debate has served to mold me as an individual. My participation has instilled in me a sense of confidence in my opinions and ideas and the capability to remain poised in pressured situations. These situations include those directly connected with speaking in front of large crowds of people as well as the ability be a purposeful and supportive leader. As captain of my school’s debate team, I try to maintain a receptive nature—one that will encourage any of my teammates to feel comfortable approaching me with any questions or concerns. Our team does not have a coach, so the responsibility falls on me to plan our trips, lead group discussions, and instill in new members the fundamentals of the activity. I never mind having lunch meetings in the library with new teammates who want to discuss a particular point, review a technique, or hear my opinion of their speech. On the contrary, I love the opportunity to encourage members and hear different opinions of issues. Debate has imparted on me the value of considering multiple angles and opinions. I now always strive to evaluate multiple aspects of different problems, whether I am mediating a conflict or designing a tiny house.Debate has also taught me how to create opportunities where none appeared before. When I first joined the team, my school had never even qualified to go to the National Tournament, and no team from South Carolina had ever made it into the top ten. Further, debate is a mostly male-dominated activity, a phenomenon that is evident at any debate event. Now, we have a thriving team, and my personal goal is to continue to build the program so that it will continue to thrive when I graduate. Currently, the debate team has one of the largest pools of consistent membership since its inception, and I attribute this success to a renewed sense of optimism and direction. Following my experiences with debate, I now throw myself headlong into everything that I do, knowing that if I dedicate enough time and energy, I will be effective.

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