BY EMMA HUERTA
Many students can only dream of attending the competitive—and, arguably, most iconic—college, Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this Ivy League school is currently ranked as the number one best global university. However, some lucky high schoolers are able to experience this elite institution hands-on at the Annual Harvard National Forensics Tournament.
One CCHS student, junior Sabrina Rapoport—out of the estimated 70 in the school’s entire speech and debate program—attended this tournament in its 46th year from February 15 to February 17.
“The actual competition was from Saturday to Monday. I only competed until Sunday though, because Monday [was] qualifying rounds,” Sabrina Rapoport said. “I debated at Lesley University Porter Square, a university associated with Harvard. Only speech rounds occurred within actual Harvard grounds.”
Accompanied by her father, Julien Ernesto Rapoport, and speech and debate teacher Sarah Botsch-Mcguinn, Sabrina traveled to Cambridge to compete.
“Harvard is a really fascinating tournament for Congress because it is the largest Congress tournament in the whole country and there are people from all over the world who come.”
“[I came] to support my daughter, to make sure she has a great experience, but also to be involved [with] what she’s been doing in the last couple of years. I wanted to be close to her and what she does,” Julien Ernesto Rapoport said.
Similar to the actual university’s reputation, the Harvard tournament holds a lot of prestige in the realm of speech and debate, especially for its Congressional Debate competition. According to the National Speech and Debate Association, Congressional Debate is “a mock legislative assembly competition where students draft bills (proposed laws) and resolutions (position statements), which they and their peers later debate and vote to pass into law and then take action on by voting for or against the legislation.”
“Harvard is a really fascinating tournament for Congress because it is the largest Congress tournament in the whole country and there are people from all over the world who come,” Botsch-Mcguinn said. “For example, every room has a flag, you stand and say the pledge, and it’s done much more exactly like how it is in Congress, whereas some of the other rounds in other competitions are a little less formal.”
Competing mainly in the Congressional Debate event, Sabrina Rapoport has been involved in CCHS debate since her freshman year. She is highly involved in the club, especially through her officer position as Executive Vice President and role as Presiding Officer in multiple Congress tournament chambers. This experience, along with mentorship from Botsch-Mcguinn, was crucial for Sabrina Rapoport’s Harvard preparation.
“Bills were released two weeks before the tournament. We had to prep about 11 [of them], but with some shuffling and arrangements, I managed to only have to write six,” Sabrina Rapoport said. “I genuinely wrote most once I was in Boston, either Friday—the day before competition—or during round—which is a technique called crystallization.”
“Not only is it really fun, but it gets you out of your shell, lets you experiment with your debate skills, lets you experience beautiful Boston [and] lets you meet hundreds of talented and amazing people.”
Although she was not able to advance to quarter-finals, Sabrina Rapoport still excelled in the tournament. She placed third and 13th out of 18 in each of her chambers. Regardless, Sabrina Rapoport maintains optimism after competing.
“My results were genuinely all over the place,” Sabrina Rapoport said. “I enjoyed participating in such a challenging and smart debate and chamber, so no matter how I did, I had a great time overall… I’m also gonna take the reviews the judges wrote and work on them. I want to try to do better next year.”
Sabrina Rapoport also got to experience the city of Boston after competing, by not only touring Harvard University itself, but also visiting Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the historic Freedom Trail. This, along with the competition itself, gave Sabrina Rapoport a complete and enriching experience at the 46th Harvard debate tournament.
“Not only is it really fun, but it gets you out of your shell, lets you experiment with your debate skills, lets you experience beautiful Boston [and] lets you meet hundreds of talented and amazing people,” Sabrina Rapoport said. “I’d actually argue that it just makes me more aware of certain issues I would not have learned about if not for the tournament, and it allows me to interact with people from other states with different backgrounds, furthering my perspective of the world.”
Photo by Sydney Katz