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Teenage trio do their talking in Czech Republic

  • Stretching their minds: debaters Salayah Stange, left, from Bermuda High School, and Raina DeFontes, from Berkeley Institute and Bermuda College, with coach Gladstone Thompson (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

A teenage trio headed to Europe last night to represent the island at an international debating tournament.

The school student team left for the Czech Republic, the host nation for the Heart of Europe competition, which starts today.

Raina DeFontes, 15, and Christopher Jackson, 16, both enrolled at the Berkeley Institute and Bermuda College, with 15-year-old Salayah Stange from Bermuda High School, will represent Bermuda at the contest.

Raina, who started debating at Port Royal Primary School, had no real advice when it came to the gift of the gab.

She said: “Don’t think too hard — just build your points, brainstorm, and the speech just flows.”

Raina said that debating experience had helped her “ace” school speaking assignments.

She added: “Five minutes, and I’m ready.”

Salayah watched her classmates debating in middle school before getting drafted on to the national team and discovering a flair for speaking.

She said: “You just have to get into the mindset of really believing what you’re saying.

“It’s all about arguing, presenting your ideas, and doing your best.”

The three were joined on the trip by Kimberley Jackson, the team coach, and Gladstone Thompson, an adjudicator and the principal of St David’s Primary School.

The youngsters will tackle topics ranging from the International Criminal Court to whether “big data” corporations such as Google should adopt open source programming.

Mr Thompson said preparation took “hours of research”, with little time left over for sightseeing. He added: “International tournaments push our students further than our ordinary curriculum allows into topics a lot of the population might not know about themselves.

“It stretches their minds and imaginations. It creates a citizen who is thoughtful and strong at listening. It assists you to become a team player.”

The tournament will be held in the Czech city of Olomouc and the team is scheduled to return home on Wednesday.