Ayesha Patel Uses Her Debate Experience to Spread Excitement to Coaches

Ayesha Patel joined debate at Lane Tech after participating in Model UN as a 7th grader. She still remembers being asked to argue FOR the practice of child labor, a policy she had consistently been arguing against in model UN. While it didn’t change her mind, it made her start to think about things from a different perspective. That was when she knew she was hooked.

By her sophomore year, a new coach had joined, Mr. Andy Fine, who really infused the team’s culture with a sense of family and community. “I love everyone on my team, and am still in touch with them. I think that’s because Mr. Fine’s focus on family. It was central to everything we did.” 

As a result of that family culture, the debate team cultivated a mentoring program between varsity debaters and novice debaters, dubbing them de-moms and de-dads. It not only gave seasoned debaters leadership opportunities, it helped novice debaters learn the ropes and get to know their teammates better. Ayesha credits that mentorship program with getting her interested in teaching a freshman seminar class in college, helping to re-create that peer-to-peer relationships that were so central to her high school learning. 

That mentoring spirit has followed Ayesha since joining Chicago Debates as a Program Officer. She sees it as a way to help new coaches understand the activity from the perspective of a debater. “I know debate can be overwhelming, and so being able to be a resource to them has been really motivating. Talking through concepts with coaches, and then seeing them get excited about teaching it to their students is a really fun process to see.”

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