Croatian Students in international debate
By AMANDA M. HULCE
In a war of words, two West Ottawa High School students triumphed on an international level last week.
Joshua Strazanac and Nathaniel Styer were teamed with a fellow American, Rachel Sohl of Oregon, to win the championship of the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) in the Eastern European nation of Estonia.
"On the flight over, Nathaniel and I thought to ourselves how neat it would be to watch the final debate in the Estonian Parliament Library Hall," Strazanac said in an e-mail from Europe. "To our surprise, we were the presenters."
IDEA Youth Forum Estonia is the largest academic debate summer camp in the world, according to the event's Web site, running from July 23 to Thursday.
Teams from 36 countries were entered in the English-language competition. Strazanac and Styer debated teams from Macedonia, Romania, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine,Croatia, Germany and Tajikistan before defeating a team from the Czech Republic in the finals.
The topic of the debate -- "The separation of the public and the private is detrimental to women's rights" -- and the talent of debating teams from all over the world made the event exciting, Styer said in an e-mail.
"There were an amazing number of ideas and concepts covered in a real short period of time," Styer said. "It was like the entire world was in a big discussion in one room, all about women's rights."
Strazanac and Styer were accompanied by West Ottawa debate coach Arlene Clark, a long-time trainer at IDEA forums.
"This experience shows the value of three-person debate style (used at this conference) -- the debaters love it, everyone learns and improves, and the young bright minds of our world work out our problems together," Clark said in an e-mail. "I also think this has been a confirmation of the importance of American youth sharing perspectives with the rest of the world."
Strazanac, Styer and Sohl are the first Americans to win the title, Styer said.
"It's still hard to comprehend now," Strazanac said. "When we come back home, we'll be coming as world champions -- a really unique thing that hasn't settled in yet, and probably won't for another few weeks."
Contact Amanda M. Hulce at firstname.lastname@example.org or (616) 546-4258.