By: Jolene Iseler
Held each year in the fall, the contest is a chance for students to develop their public speaking skills while analyzing and discussing current problems affecting the agriculture industry. Though students bring many different ideas into the discussion, their goal is not to prove that their own solution is the best; rather, students collectively examine possible solutions and further their understanding of the subject.
Students follow a semi-structured set of steps during the meet. They give a 30 second opening statement, then have 20 minutes to freely discuss any facet of the topic. After the body of the discussion comes the closing statement, which students are given one minute to prepare for. The closing statement outlines the main points of the body of the discussion and gives students the opportunity to make any final remarks.
The participants are graded on six categories: their opening statement, closing statement, delivery, problem solving skills, analysis of the topic, and cooperative attitude. After students are judged on these criteria at the regional contests, the top three students from each region have the opportunity to compete at the State Youth Discussion Meet.
Casey Baranski, Kelsie Goretski, Ty Knoblock, Hannah Mills, Lindsey Ritter, and Ben Zaleski all competed in the regional division of the contest, held at Delta College. After three rounds of the regional contest, Goretski and Zaleski moved on to the state semifinals in Grand Rapids. After the state semifinals, Zaleski had the opportunity to advance into the state finals.
The Discussion Meet taught these young adults valuable communication skills that will be necessary as they leave high school and enter adult life. The success of these students shows that when many people work to solve a common goal, amazing things can happen.