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Charlotte Latin student takes 18th at national debate competition

Nick Verderame (right) poses with his brother, John, after the two qualified for the National Speech and Debate Tournament, which took place last month. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Latin

Nick Verderame (right) poses with his brother, John, after the two qualified for the National Speech and Debate Tournament, which took place last month. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Latin

Try to avoid getting into an argument with Nick Verderame.
The Charlotte Latin rising senior placed 18th out of 250 students from across the country at the June 19 Congressional Debate Senate Finals at the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Overland Park, Kansas.
“It was fantastic to represent my state at this event,” Nick said. “My favorite part was getting to debate the issues with some of the smartest teens in the nation.”
Students must place among the top competitors at one of 110 district tournaments to attend the national event. Qualifiers compete for more than $200,000 in college scholarships in a variety of speech, debate and performance events. The competition consisted of several hour-long mock discussions about mock legislation such as social issues or financial aid to other countries, Nick said. Individuals would make presentations for or against the legislation and then the group would vote on it. Judges would analyze the depth and complicity of students’ arguments.
Nick found a passion in debate when he realized it would help him “to advocate for people,” he said. “I found something that I really connected with and tried to stick with it and see how far it would take me.”
Nick and his older brother, John, were both heavily involved in Charlotte Latin’s debate team. The two conducted mock discussion sessions with debate teacher Jonathan Peele to prepare for the competition, practicing the correct way to speak and ways to structure their speech, John said. John was a national qualifier for International Extemporaneous Speaking, which includes speeches about international policy. The brothers would often debate against one another to prepare for the competition.
Peele encouraged Nick to take the steps toward the national competition, and was excited to see his student put in about 100 hours of preparation in two weeks to get ready for the national event. Charlotte Latin offers a debate course in which students research and debate topics as part of a curriculum. Students are required to attend some events as part of the course, while students with a passion for debate may participate in more.
“A student like Nick, who is very motivated and wants to compete, goes to about 15 competitions,” Peele said.
Peele felt Nick possessed the imperative qualities to be successful in the competition’s congressional category. Because the event mimics the United States Congress, creating relationships with fellow debaters are important, Peele said, which played to his student’s strengths.
“Nick is a nice guy,” Peele said. “He’s charismatic, which makes him great at building relationships.” Through his “outgoing” and “nice” personality, Nick could sway votes, Peele added.
Nick credited his coach as the driving force for his confidence at the competition.
“Right before the competition, he reminded me why I do this,” Nick said. “He gave me the extra boost that I needed to get to the place I wanted to be.”
John, who is now a Charlotte Latin graduate, said he only qualified “by accident” in his event and was proud to see his brother do well in the competition. “It was amazing to see him do what he was good at,” he said.
Charlotte Latin has a long history of debate excellence. The school has sent at least one student to the National Speech and Debate Tournament 16 times. This year marks the third consecutive year that a Charlotte Latin student has competed as a Senate finalist.

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Courtney Schultz

About Courtney Schultz

Courtney Schultz is a graduate from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. She has both a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science. At Campbell, she was the editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper for nearly three years and worked for the Siskey YMCA in their membership services and marketing department. She mostly covers education news for the Matthews, Mint-Hill, and greater Charlotte areas.

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