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updated: 4/2/2013 3:43 PM

Harper debaters prepare for national competition in L.A.

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  • The 2012-13 Harper College Debate Team. Back row, from left: Miguel Melgar; Brianna Bitout; Melissa Bleile; Jackie Van LyseBettens; Patrick Halpin; Kelli Halfman and Anthony Suchala; front row, from left: Andy Robinson; Elisa Galvan; Kate Fundarek and Bridie Damisch.

      The 2012-13 Harper College Debate Team. Back row, from left: Miguel Melgar; Brianna Bitout; Melissa Bleile; Jackie Van LyseBettens; Patrick Halpin; Kelli Halfman and Anthony Suchala; front row, from left: Andy Robinson; Elisa Galvan; Kate Fundarek and Bridie Damisch.
    Courtesy of Harper College

  • Elisa Galvan, left, and her mother, Maricela Alva, were at last year's President's Ball gala fundraiser for the Harper College Educational Foundation.

       Elisa Galvan, left, and her mother, Maricela Alva, were at last year's President's Ball gala fundraiser for the Harper College Educational Foundation.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 

Elisa Galvan of Hoffman Estates is a veteran debater and co-captain of Harper's high-powered speech and debate team. At the state championship last month for two-year colleges, it showed.

Galvan won the state title in extemporaneous speaking and another one in parliamentary debate, with teammate Brianna Bitout of Arlington Heights.

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Together with their teammates -- Kate Fundarek of Hoffman Estates, who won the state title in dramatic interpretation and Patrick Halpin of Hanover Park who won persuasion -- they led the team to a third-place finish and won a berth to nationals in Los Angeles next week.

"My goal all year has been to continue to medal in extemporaneous speaking," Galvan said. "I love it, it's my baby, if you will. You get 30 minutes to prepare for a speech that will last seven minutes, but I see it as a teaching moment.

"Since our topics are about world and international issues and domestic policies," the future teacher added, "I take the attitude that you're teaching about it."

Their coach, Jeff Przybylo, has guided Harper's teams to the top-10 nationally for the last 11 years and helped them earn more than 30 national gold medals, but this one is unique.

"We have some great speeches that advanced, but this team excels at the events with limited preparation," Przybylo said. "These are philosophical or abstract in nature; you're not allowed to make an argument on hard evidence."

Their ability to excel in some of the hardest events at the competition demonstrates their improvement throughout the debate season, and their maturity level, Przybylo said.

"They're really starting to get it," he said. "I think they're poised to be one of the top teams in the country."

They will compete for that honor at the Phi Rho Pi national tournament, which is the national forensics organization for community colleges. Members of Los Angeles Valley College's debate team will host the event.

Harper debaters have been ramping up their practice sessions since their state finish last month, including one-on-one coaching sessions with Przybylo, and his assistant coaches Professor Josh Sunderbruch and Assistant Professor Margaret Bilos.

On Tuesday they ratcheted up their excitement even higher, as they hosted their "Night Before State" fundraiser. It took place in Harper's Performing Arts Center, where they delivered eight of their speeches and also demonstrated a two-on-two debate, with a topic suggested by the audience.

In between speeches, students took turns explaining the speeches to the audience and in what event they would be competing.

It was another teaching moment for Galvan and likely her last at Harper. The daughter of Mexican immigrants and first in her family to attend college, has been accepted into DePaul University, where she plans to enroll in its Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse department, along with earning her education degree.

But first things, first. The veteran debater will lead her team to nationals, where they hope to better their third-place finish of the last two years.

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