Local university students inspire youth through debate
Two years ago, Alejandro Arrieta and Mauricio Ramírez Molina joined their university’s debate league in El Salvador where their extracurricular activity quickly developed into a passionate hobby. In their quest to share their gift with others, the boys discovered Glasswing’s Debate Club, an after-school program offered to at-risk youth in public schools. Without hesitation, both boys signed up to volunteer. While their team went on to win two debate tournaments, the real accomplishment was in how their kids began applying these skills in other aspects of their lives.
Like many kids in El Salvador, William – one of Alejandro and Mauricio’s first Glasswing students – faces immense challenges. Rising violence and poverty rates in his community coupled with poorly funded schools and a 4-hour school day makes it difficult for him and his peers to continue their studies. In fact, nearly 70% of youth abandon their studies by the 9th grade in El Salvador. With little support, William was pulling back, losing confidence, and lacking vision for a better life. Through Debate Club, however, he began to change how he saw himself and his world. Not only did he develop skills in problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork, but he also became proud of his role in the Club, learning that his voice matters and that he has an ability to change the way people talk about issues.
Debate Club is part of Glasswing’s Community Schools model. To date, there are 19 Debate Clubs across El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This November at the Generation Now Festival, Glasswing will host the first-ever regional debate tournament, where students—like William— will be empowered to speak their mind. This year, William graduated from high school. In their last Club meeting, Alejandro asked William, so what’s next? And to Alejandro’s surprise and delight, William explained how he was planning to take the entrance exam to attend university. Thanks to dedicated volunteers, these programs have inspired a generation of students that dare to question the status quo and aren’t afraid to speak up and voice their thoughts.