LAKE WORTH — Tackling hot topics such as “stand your ground” laws, U.S. border policies and mandatory health insurance for Americans, the Debate Team for Palm Beach State College’s Student Support Services program recently won a regional debate competition.
Team members Edline Francois and Patricia Ruiz-Medina, both Honors College students, writers for the Beachcomber student newspaper and members of Phi Theta Kappa international honor society, prevailed in three rounds, winning $250 each as well as a trophy. They defeated competitors from Berea College in Kentucky, Cleveland Community College in North Carolina and the University of South Carolina Upstate at the competition held during the Southeastern Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel Student Initiatives Conference in Atlanta April 5.
“Ever since I was a child, I loved to argue my point,” said Ruiz-Medina of Boca Raton. Formal debate started at the college. “That’s why I love the school so much. It has afforded me another opportunity.”
Francois of Delray Beach, who recently completed an internship at Scripps Research Institute, will graduate in May with an Associate in Arts degree and transfer to New College of Florida in the fall to pursue a degree in biochemistry.
“It felt great that all of the hard work paid off.” “It was an exciting experience,’’ Francois said. “It helped me grow. I’m more aware of others perspectives on issues that my peers and I are dealing with.”
Ruiz-Medina, who recently began an internship at CBS’ 48 Hours working with a local producer, expects to receive her A.A. degree in December and pursue a bachelor’s degree with a double major in political science and mass communication at a university.
They also were among the three-member PBSC team that won the debate competition at the Florida Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (FAEOPP) conference hosted by Florida State University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University last December. Their success at the state level led FAEOPP to sponsor PBSC’s team to attend the regional competition.
Student Support Services is a free program under TRIO, a set of federally-funded college opportunity programs established in 1964 that motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of college degrees. The service provides academic and other support services to low-income, first-generation or disabled college students to increase students’ retention and graduation rates, facilitate their transfer from two-year to four-year colleges, and foster an institutional climate supportive of their success.
Jerinae Speed, the debate team coach and director of the Student Support Service, said she is pleased with the team’s success. “The students spoke on social and political events that affect all of us. I knew that this team would be able to articulate the events to their colleagues.”