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Debaters hone speaking, thinking skills
WEB Braylon Hyde-debates
Bradwell debate team president Braylon Hyde talks with a judge Thursday night during the teams practice debate. - photo by Randy C.Murray

Debating skills are essential not only for preparing high school students for college and the workplace. According to Thomas Thornton, academic advisor for Bradwell Institute’s National Forensic League Debate Team, debating skills are life skills.

“Debating teaches the importance of research, and it enhances public speaking skills and critical thinking skills,” said Thornton, who’s taught chemistry and physics at Bradwell since graduating from the University of West Georgia in 2009. “I got into debating because of my uncle, who was on the debate team in college. Bradwell was looking for a sponsor so they could re-instate the debate team here after a 10-year lapse, and I volunteered, but the one most responsible for getting the debate team started again is Braylon Hyde.”

Hyde, a senior, said he came to Bradwell from Pascagoula, Miss., following his sophomore year, which he spent as a member of his high school’s debate team. His father is a soldier who was reassigned to Fort Stewart. As soon as he got to Bradwell, Hyde said he began asking why they didn’t have a debate team anymore.

Bradwell’s debate team won the state championship in 1966, but with the team having been disbanded a decade ago, there was not a lot of knowledge on how to form a team and set up debates.

Bradwell Principal Scott Carrier said Hyde filled the gap and, with Thornton’s help, Bradwell’s debate team since has traveled to tournaments throughout Georgia, placing second, fourth and fifth. Six of its team members have qualified for the first national tournament of the year, the Hub City Classis, which will be held in Hattiesburg, Miss., next month.

“My family said I was born to debate because I was always questioning why something had to be this way or why it couldn’t be that way,” Hyde said with a grin. “Last year, our first year, we started with a school event we called ‘Battle of the Classes.’ After we got a (debate) team together, we competed in debates in Chattahoochee, Ga., and Carrolton, Ga.”
Hyde said when he graduates from Bradwell this year he plans to return to Mississippi to seek a dual degree in business administration/pre-law and political science through the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg.

“I plan to be a lawyer and a politician some day,” he said, smiling with confidence about his future. “I also plan to be president of the United States some day.”

Bradwell’s debate team had a practice debate Thursday in the school’s cafeteria. The judges included Walthourville Mayor Daisy Pray; Liberty County Board of Education member Carol Guyett; Bradwell honors and advanced placement English teacher Brian Rothwell; Liberty County Clerk of Court Barry Wilkes; Savannah Technical College instructor Patricia Pangburn; and Hinesville Mayor James Thomas.

Before the debates began, Hyde distributed written instructions to the judges then personally explained judging procedures and the order of events. Rothwell noted the success of the debate team is a direct result of Hyde’s leadership.

“Braylon has single-handedly gotten this team going,” he said, nodding his head at Hyde who scurried from the judges’ table to check the microphones on the stage. “He’s very persistent; I’ll tell you that.”

“All of these students deserve to be congratulated,” Carrier said, pointing out the hard work involved in preparing for a debate. “It takes a lot of research and a lot of practice to get ready for a debate. There are rules that must be followed, and I think each of them has done a great job.”

In addition to Hyde, the team president, BI’s debate team consists of vice president Sedeeq Heard and members Kwanzaa Wallace, Janae Wells, Katiah John, Ayonna James, William Bell, Tirany Gunn, Mariam Madison and Sergio Ortega.

Thursday’s debate began with a Lincoln-Douglas style matchup between Wells and Wallace on No Child Left Behind. The sometimes-heated exchange was followed by a dramatic interpretation by John; a team debate with James and Heard debating Bell and Hyde on the Electoral College; poetry readings by Jones and Gunn; and a debate between Madison and Ortega on affirmative action.

Hyde told parents, families and faculty members that he hoped they would see the importance of supporting the debate team and asked for their help in raising funds to pay for the team’s trip to the national debates next month. For more information about Bradwell’s debate team, email

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