One tournament, two days, third place:
Richard T. Crane Medical Prep Scholars Take Home Big Win in CPS Debate Tourney

by Mish Gajewski, RTC Scholar Coach

Two Schuler Scholars brought their enormous talent to the table at the 2015 Performance Trust Public Debates, and walked away with a huge third place finish for Richard T. Crane Medical Prep.

Jenita Browning and Jennifer Banks, juniors in their second year as Schuler Scholars, led RTC’s debate team to third place out of 10 Chicago Public Schools, including Whitney Young Magnet High School, Lane Tech College Prep, and Jones WM Academic Magnet High School, some of the top-most selective enrollment schools in the city.

“Every tournament, we set a minimum goal for ourselves,” Banks says. “For this last one, we said we would win at least one or two.”

Banks and Browning far exceeded this goal, winning three out of five of their first sets to push them into the final four with Whitney Young, Payton, and Lindblom Math and Science Academy, another Schuler partnership school. RTC entered the finals in fourth place, but ultimately stole the third place ranking from the heavy favorite, Whitney Young.

Wins are determined by a panel of judges who monitor the competitors for their composure and confidence alongside the strength and effectiveness of their arguments. Every tournament requires debaters to concentrate on different skillsets; Browning explains that this tournament focused largely on “speaking, format of argument, and [their] overall presentation.”

“Sad to say, but at first we were confident but we weren’t confident in our success,” Browning says. “We were confident about the learning experience, but we didn’t think we were going to get that far.”

RTC’s third place pull was certainly a big “underdog” win. RTC has no seniors, so as juniors Banks and Browning represent the highest level of experience for the team.

Browning participated in debate in middle school, but stresses that the format then was extremely different and those years largely “don’t count” towards her overall experience in debate. According to her, she has only been involved in debate in a meaningful way since her freshman year.

Banks and Browning are close friends, and Banks states that this was a significant reason for her joining the debate team as a sophomore.

“I felt like mostly being with my best friend,” Banks says. “But, in a way, it’s another academic thing I wanted to do.”

Banks and Browning agree that their involvement in debate has had a great many positive effects in their personal and academic lives, even beyond supplying them with a sense of pride every time they see the trophy they earned in RTC’s trophy case.

“I was shy my freshman year,” Browning says. “I knew debate would help with public speaking and … it really opened me up.”

For Banks, she’s learned how to “create quick arguments” and “think on her feet” from debate along with amassing a wealth of public speaking skills and confidence.

Both Scholars look forward to their next meet coming in mid-January.


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