Milpitas Golden Knights take Public Forum Debate Indoors!

Milpitas Mayor Richard Tran takes notice and attends the Final Debate session!


By Ravi Sundaram, Special to India Parent Magazine

“The credit goes towards all students of this program - Nalika, Diya, Saatvika, Aadya, Sohan, Adithya, Hrithvik and Katthir. Meghaa, a high school sophomore at Notre Dame High School is the leader and coach for the Milpitas Golden Knights team,” said one of the parents of the participants

With COVID-19 bringing in a new distance learning environment and summer lockdown for students, a group of eight middle school students (Milpitas Golden Knights) with the active volunteer guidance of a high school student came up with a creative plan to spend their summer holidays safely indoors and socially connected by organizing a program through remote learning model for Public Forum Debate.

How did this idea begin? In light of the COVID 19 situation, when students were faced with challenging times trying to find ways to keep active during the lockdown, eight 6th grade Merryhill school students showed interest in practicing and learning techniques for public forum debate. With the assistance and leadership of Meghaa, the debate Advisor and judge (ex-Merryhill student and current Notre Dame student), the debate club was formed and sessions were organized. Meghaa helped design the debate classes and practice sessions every week for 12 weeks with the idea to keep the students connected, stay mentally healthy and keep the social interaction going in challenging times. The young participants were eager to make this endeavor a huge success and felt inspired by it.

Some of the topics covered in the debate included
1. Is traditional education better than home schooling?
2. Are computers replacing teachers?
3. Do we need to ban cell phones in classrooms?

Said Saatvika one of the members, “This experience in debating has given a lot more confidence and more clear understanding in what I want to stand out in, which is in debates. Thank you so much Meghaa and Meghaa's Dad, for letting me enjoy this summer and introducing me to my passion.”

Added Hrithivik, “Because of COVID 19 i could not go for summer camp and I used this time productively to engage in debate group with my friends which improved my self-confidence and my public speaking skills.

About the Debate Sessions: With dedication, the group started to practice from the end of May and continued to learn and acquire the skill that can assist them in their middle/high school. Every week, the team gathered in a virtual meeting session and reviewed through debate materials/rules, watched debate videos, and practiced speeches. The program was executed as four teams with two members in each team who debate every week through a virtual meet. For every debate topic, the team members were re-grouped to bring in their best support for each other. The debate team independently handled work sessions between themselves during the week to prepare for the debate and keep connected. This helped the students to learn and practice teamwork. At the end of each debate, students voted for the next debate title and continued to challenge themselves to bring in their best. In addition to debate sessions and in the spirit of rewarding and motivating the students at the end of the debate session, the program was expanded to include General knowledge Quiz (covering Science/History/Geography/Politics/Sports) at end of the debate session.

Some of the topics covered in the debate included
1. Is traditional education better than home schooling?
2. Are computers replacing teachers?
3. Do we need to ban cell phones in classrooms?

The winners were recognized that helped bring in a positive and confident attitude towards adjusting to the new normal (distance learning model).

About Milpitas Golden Knights
Motto: “Symbolizing honor and recognition of the team for the efforts in earning knowledge and imparting volunteer service to the community.”

The team consists of Adhithya, Hrithivik, Nalika, Diya, Katthir, Sohan, Aadya and Saatvika, with high-schooler Meghaa acting as their president. The goal of MGN is to meet the educational projects like TechChallenge, Science Fair and participate in social activities such as Fundraising and Volunteering. Digital content manager of this group is Vinoth Kumar.

Screen shot from “Milpitas Golden Knights” presentation to Milpitas Mayor on Aug 17th 2020

Reward: By the end of the debate session, the kids were able to meet at a local park to celebrate their achievements, while social distancing. It was their first time meeting in real life since the start of the summer and the kids enjoyed catching up. At the end of the reunion, they were presented with trophies and medals to congratulate them on their progress and improvement in debating. Team pictures were taken and speeches were given to thank everyone for their participation in the program. The kids individually expressed their gratitude to their judge, Meghaa, for guiding them through Public Forum Debate.

The Principal of MerryHill School, Ms. Quinn Letan who recognized the efforts put together by the students, attended the final debate session. The students were also given the opportunity to present the program to Mayor Richard Tran of Milpitas.

“I feel the summer 2020 debate club was a great learning experience for my son. He was able to strengthen his critical thinking and public speaking skills. Also he had a good time connecting with his fellow peers,” said Aarti, one of the parents.

Agreed another parent Vinoth. “Covid has been especially hard on the kids and parents. The debate activity that the kids initiated and continued through the summer holidays kept them productively engaged. Knowing they were involved in activity that developed a skillset and had great mentorship from Megha was absolutely a godsend.”