Trinity Prep climbs to top 32

Trinity climbs to top 32

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  • | 3:22 a.m. December 30, 2010
Photo by: Brittni Larson - Laurel Leavitt, Abraham Fraifeld and Doug Herring will debate the war in Afghanistan for a top 16 spot.
Photo by: Brittni Larson - Laurel Leavitt, Abraham Fraifeld and Doug Herring will debate the war in Afghanistan for a top 16 spot.
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Three Trinity Preparatory School sophomores spent their entire Thanksgiving break researching debate arguments — and they had fun.

The Orange County school’s debate team was named one of the top 32 teams, and the only Florida team, in an international debate competition, and are competing for a spot in the New York City finals.

The 10th annual Bickel & Brewer/New York University International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) culminates in an all-expenses-paid trip to the final round in New York City, and the winning team receives a $10,000 prize.

The competition is international, with teams from 42 states and 36 countries participating in the beginning rounds, debating on public policy.

Until the final eight teams get to New York City, all of the debating is done in writing.

“The idea, visually, was to create a debate tournament that was available to as many high school students as possible,” said William Brewer, partner at Bickel & Brewer and founder of the IPPF. “It’s overcoming the travel barrier … there are no spatial or financial limitations on your participation.”

The challenge

Traveling hasn’t been a problem for the Trinity Prep debate team — the students have traveled all over the country this semester, with competitions in Chicago, Dallas and New York City. The whole debate team has about 70 members, but three sophomores, Laurel Leavitt, Abraham Fraifeld and Doug Herring, are the special team competing in the IPPF.

The students have spent hours on research and writing for their argument negating the competition topic, “Resolved: NATO military operations in Afghanistan are not justified.”

They’ll spend the next weeks arguing their side back and forth with a high school in Texas, with the winner heading to the top 16 round. Leavitt and Fraifeld have debated on Afghanistan before, but still spent much of their Thanksgiving break researching and writing.

“I’m a debate nerd; I’m addicted,” Fraifeld said.

The debate bug

The team said they liked that practicing debate kept them up to date on current events, the thrill of coming up with an argument that no one else might think of, and becoming an expert on the debate topics.

“I just like learning in general,” Leavitt said.

And their coach, Trinity Prep social studies teacher Michael Vigars, enjoys watching them get better.

“I love seeing the kids grow in terms of their knowledge and helping them and watching them succeed,” he said. “Seeing my students succeed makes coaching worth it.”

Brewer said there’s no better or more important activity that a student can participate in than debate.

“The time I spent in debate was transformational,” he said of his own school experience.

Vigars and Brewer agreed that the benefits of debate to a student are many: public speaking experience, learning to think logically and quickly, time management, improving writing skills and just being more involved in the world around them.

World connection

One of the ways the Trinity team accomplishes the last benefit, is through the travel they do to compete. And that’s one benefit the team loves.

“I have friends all across the country,” Herring said.

They agreed the travel also brings the team closer, and that, they said, is their key to success. They can name who won what at each tournament they attend — which are numerous — and skip lunch to watch their teammates compete, because they’re all friends.

“It’s the support we give to one another,” Herring said.

“We’re often the loudest team at awards ceremonies,” Fraifeld joked.

They look forward to being the loudest if they get to the final round of the IPPF, and bringing something home better than a trophy — $10,000. And, of course, the thrill of winning, which Fraifeld mentioned just a few times.

“Winning’s fun,” he said.

Learn more

For more information about the 10th annual Bickel & Brewer/New York University International Public Policy Forum, visit