Building the program: DV offers speech and debate summer camp - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Building the program: DV offers speech and debate summer camp

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Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012 7:23 am | Updated: 1:45 pm, Tue Sep 30, 2014.

The Desert Vista Speech, Theatre and Debate Company is already one of the strongest programs in the state, if not the nation. Through a summer program directed at incoming middle school through ninth grade students, the program will continue to get stronger.

For the past seven years, Desert Vista has hosted a summer camp for middle school students interested in speech and debate. The program has evolved over the years, and has nearly doubled in attendance, which this years sits at almost 60.

The length of the camps has also doubled, from three weeks to six, which gives camp directors the opportunity to introduce additional speech and debate events. They go Monday through Friday for three hours each day, with time split between debate event and speech events.

“We do the full range of fundamentals and we are trying to incorporate more middle school events,” said Sammi Saunders, Desert Vista graduate and program director for the summer camp. “We teach them the different skill sets, which makes them well-rounded in more events.”

Friday marked the halfway point of the camp and was highlighted by a mini tournament full of speech and debate events and was capped off by an award ceremony.

While some participants were reluctant to take the camp at first, the activities and experiences ended up changing their mindset.

“I didn’t want to do it at first, but now I really like it and I feel like I am learning,” said Animesh Gupta, 12, who will be a seventh-grader in the fall. “The teachers are very understanding and experienced. If you are having a bad day, they will do everything they can to cheer you up.”

Kyrene Akimel and Altadeña middle schools are the “feeder” schools to Desert Vista, and have their own speech and debate programs. To further encourage participation, Desert Vista speech and debate students visit the schools during the year and put on a performance as a showcase of what could be to come.

To find out more about the DV program, visit

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