“Speak your mind” is the ongoing debate program created by LEVEL for high school students from Iasi, focusing on developing and exercising academic debate skills, advanced argumentation, rhetoric, oratory and public speaking, designing and writing proposals and essays, critical reading and text interpretation, leadership and advocacy of personal and social causes.
The project aims at creating debate club in several different high schools in Iasi which would collaborate and grow into forming a network of capable, informed and active young people acting together for change and improvement in Iasi. So far we have collaborated with Liceul Teoretic “Garabet Ibraileanu” and Colegiul National, two very prominent high schools from Iasi. We have had over 30 people frequenting debate classes, seminars, events and competitions both local and nation-wide over the last two years. During this project, participants have learnt about ethics and axiology, basic principles of argumentation and rebuttal, persuasiveness in both written and oral speech, how to build assertiveness and grow one’s self-confidence. Participants were also encouraged to take part in debates in various debate formats such as Worlds Schools, British and American Parliamentary debating and we’ve organized public debates, conferences and seminars, participated in competitions, learnt project writing and management and helped participants develop their own projects and advocate for change in their social circles.
The project also encourages mentorship among students in a way that people who graduate from high school are asked to stay in the program and help younger students in learning, practicing public speaking, making projects together and finding out what they really believe, so that in the end the aim of this project is to create a cohesive and bonded group of young people sharing common ideas and interests that may create change and spread fresh ideas in Iasi.
So far, the young people participating in this program have improved in school and competition results, they have managed to expand their horizon and participate in international and national projects, and to create their own projects from scratch, to advocate for these projects and promote them among peers and in the community and to increase awareness over things they are interested in. For instance, two of our former participants were initially very shy individuals, but through hard work and dedication, they managed to become members of the Student Body in their school and become representatives of their classmates in the school. Another participant has been able to create and promote his own photography contest among high schools in Iasi and now this contest has the support of the school and has been taking place every year for the last three years. Two other participants have become involved with their school magazine and wrote articles of opinion over current issues of concern for young people, talked about books they’ve read and developed their own sense of style in written and spoken word. All in all, participants are encouraged to nurture their talent and focus on their interests and everybody shares and helps other people with things they are good at, so that most of the times we’ve also had study sessions, preparations for the national high school exams, English language training, book club meetings, role-playing games and civic initiative events that arose from questions, expressed needs or interests of the participants.