Sophie Mitchell, 17, and Elias Andraos, 16, both in grade 11 at Baie D’Urfé’s Alexander von Humboldt German International School, finished last weekend’s Senior National Debate Championship in Vancouver as the third ranked team from Quebec. Making this achievement all the more impressive: this is their first year debating.
Mitchell and Andraos placed eighth in the provincial championships at Selwyn House in April and though only the top six teams in the province were invited to Vancouver, they received an invitation by default when two other higher-ranked teams could not attend. “The invitation was a huge honour for us,” says Andraos, “seeing as we've only been debating for less than a year. I immediately knew that I wanted to go no matter what, because I think that it is really an opportunity that one gets once in a lifetime.” The Friends of AvH, a charitable trust providing financial assistance to students at Alexander von Humboldt (a trilingual pre-K to grade 12 school), was quick to lend support so that Mitchell and Andraos could attend.
The pair debated six rounds of motions such as “This house supports conscientious objectors in the military" and "This house would build public housing for the poor in wealthy neighbourhoods" over two days. While they did not make it through to the final elimination rounds, Andraos, who joined the team late this year as a last minute-replacement, reflects: “I’m positively surprised by our performance; we went toe to toe with some of the best teams in Canada and, even when we did lose, we didn’t lose by much. I did not expect us to be able to compete with the other teams on that level.”
Team coach David Smith remarks, “I’m astounded by their success. This is only Elias’ third and Sophie’s fourth tournament ever, including the provincial championships, but they have proven to be incredibly hard workers and quick learners. I’ve coached high school debating for several years and have never had a team rise to such a high level so quickly.”
Andraos will continue debating next year as a grade 12 student at AvH. Mitchell graduates this year and is enrolled in McGill’s agriculture programme for next year.