Come one, come all: Lanier MS opens debate camp to all middle-schoolers

Lanier Middle School’s debate team consistently is one of the top teams in the nation, and the team’s coach hopes to see the program expand to more middle schools.

Each year, Franz Hill holds summer camps for middle-school students interested in being a part of the debate team. This year, Hill opened the camp to students from all of the district’s middle schools, and the response was bigger than he expected.

“I let in about 34 kids each session, and had to turn people away,” Hill said. “The whole reason we opened it up to more students is because we want to see speech and debate grow in the Houston area. It shouldn’t be something that only students who go to a certain school get to do.”

About half of the nearly 110 students accepted into the camp attend middle schools other than Lanier.

“We’re lucky to have debate here at Lanier, and we wanted to share those skills and other opportunities with students who will, hopefully, go to their respective middle schools and advocate for starting programs,” Hill said.

Anna Maag, a student at Pin Oak Middle School, said her experience at the camp helped her develop skills crucial for her dream job.

“It’s the best camp I’ve ever been to,” Anna said. “It’s taught me a lot of new things and builds confidence. I like working in the small groups. I want to be a lawyer when I grow up.”

The campers got to spend time with people who were in their shoes not so long ago. The assistant coaches are high school and college students who were once on Lanier’s debate team.

“After coming back after a couple of years, there is no better feeling than seeing kids grow up and become wonderful debaters,” said Ariel DelVecchio, a Carnegie Vanguard rising senior. “Watching them progress and learn and to actually be a part of that process is the best thing in the world.”

Most of the students who attended the camps this year were incoming sixth-graders. Hill said he plans to hold at least one advanced camp next summer.