Cadmiel Avendano (left) accepting the 2010 Debater of the Year Award from Allstate Senior VP and General Counsel Michele Coleman Mayes at the 2010 Chicago Debate Championship.

During my first two years at Little Village High School, I was nothing more than an ordinary student, breezing through a lot of boring classes I knew I was smart and I wanted to succeed, but I wasn’t interested in anything but math.

Junior year came along with new students, new teachers, and new activities. Among the new teachers hired was Dennis Kass, Jones College Prep’s former debate coach. A few weeks into the school year, I heard he was coaching the school’s debate team. Frankly, I was terrified at the thought of debating, but after some convincing by the Vice Principal, I decided to give the debate team a shot.

I showed up to a few debate meetings, and eventually I participated in the second tournament of the season. Round 1 was horrible! Round 2 was better than the first. Round 3 was better than the second. Next thing I knew, I was hooked. Being part of debate gave me an incomparable thrill. My partner and I broke to the quarterfinals that tournament, and went 2-3 at each of the remaining tournaments that season. Despite our poor record, I stayed motivated to become better.

The debate season didn’t end for me that March. After the City Championships, I spent several after-school hours with Mr. Kass learning debate structure and discussing possible arguments for the next season’s resolution.

Even though school ended for the year, debate still followed me. During that summer, I attended the Illinois State University Summer Debate Institute. There, I learned many different types of arguments and how to debate them. Although I was there for only a week, I felt like I was ready for the next season.

It was September of my senior year, so I knew it was time to excel in debate. My partner and I won the first three tournaments in the “AA” conference with an undefeated record. The Chicago Debate League then gave us the opportunity to move up to the “A” conference during mid-season. Although we lost in the final round of our first tournament in the “A” conference, we won all the following tournaments.  Participating in the Mayer Brown Urban Debate Invitational and winning the 2010 Voltaire Sterling Debater of the Year Award were other highlights of my senior year.

The combination of lessons from Illinois State University,  coaching from Mr. Kass, and valuable critiques given by experienced judges, helped me become a better debater and student. I graduated Valedictorian from Little Village High School, and I owe part of this accomplishment to debate.

I am now attending the University of Illinois in Chicago majoring in chemical engineering. While I have chosen not to pursue debate in college due to my love for integrals, I often find myself utilizing the skills I learned in debate, such as spreading (speed reading), during my studies.

But I have not completely cut off my ties to debate.  I am helping Mr. Kass coach Little Village High School and serve as a support coach for Zapata Academy.  I am excited to be on the path to gain a Chemical Engineering degree while still around the activity that I love the most.