Write. Argue. Rebut. Repeat.
It may not sound like an ideal way to spend a holiday weekend, but three students at Chandler’s Hamilton High School were looking forward to it as they prepare for the next round of an international competition.
Nischay Upadhyayula, 17; Sanjay Srinivasan, 16; and Rajan Sheth, 18; are the members of Hamilton’s team that will now compete in the “top 32” round of the Bickel & Brewer/New York University International Public Policy Forum. It marks the third time in four years that a Hamilton team has advanced this far. It’s the only team from Arizona.
In the competition, the students are given a topic. This year, they must argue the best approach to climate change. First, they write a 2,800-word essay taking one side or another. That earns them a bid to the second round, which is under way.
This weekend, the students planned to fine-tune their essay before emailing it to their first competitor: Team Singapore. The students there will present their side and a response in their own essay.
The students’ writings are then judged by an international team to select the “sweet 16.”
Should the students end up in the final eight, they’ll travel to New York where they’ll present oral arguments. The winner receives $10,000.
More than 200 teams from 34 states and 29 countries started the competition.
“You have to pay attention to how others will look at your writing,” said Srinivasan. “With some of the more scientific issues of climate change, we have to be more clear when we explain it.”
The students already had an interest in the topic prior to receiving it last summer. But they had to do more research to present arguments that are both “cohesive and convincing,” they said
What the students said they’ve learned is that even though they can only argue one stance in their essay, they believe there are multiple approaches to climate change that would have to be used together in the “real world” to have any impact.
“One part of what we’ve learned is effectively communicating one idea, but not one side is right. It’s not just black and white,” Sheth said.
“You have to pick one side and show how it’s better, but in the real world, just one idea wouldn’t work,” Srinivasan agreed.
The three, who have been friends since seventh grade, all plan to attend college next year. Not surprising, at least one plans to be an attorney.
Besides this competition, the students are members of the school’s speech and debate and We the People teams and take Advance Placement courses.
“They really are a team when they work together, bouncing ideas off each other,” said Sarah Burgess, the Hamilton teacher who is working with them on this competition. “They took their essay to the AP English teacher for review and the science teacher to read it. But it’s 99 percent their own work.”
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