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The Opportunity Network Debate Team at the University of South Carolina Upstate earned second place at the SSS/McNair Parliamentary Debate Competition held on April 19 at Atlanta Metropolitan State College.

The debate team is comprised of two lead debaters and two supporting researchers. Alexandra Dukes, a sophomore criminal justice major from Pickens, served as Prime Minister/Leader of Opposition, and Audria Claxton, a junior political science major from Greenville, served as Crown Minister/Member of Opposition. Cherie Murray, a junior elementary education major from Irmo, and Jazemine Blanding, a junior criminal justice major from Pineville, served as the supporting researchers.  Selena Blair, director of Opportunity Network, coached the team.

“It was more than a debate; it was an eye opener to the courage it takes to speak in front of people,” said Dukes. “I have a new found respect for those who do it on a regular basis.”

Claxton agreed, “The debate was a very enriching experience. Not only did it teach me the importance of thinking quickly and precisely, but I learned the significance of being able to argue a position rather than my personal beliefs.”

The Southeastern Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (SAEOPP) sponsors this annual competition as part of its Student Initiatives for the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The competition consisted of three rounds where students debated on topics such as the effects of Sequestration on the fiscal climate, whether public tours of the White House should be allowed, and if the federal government should ban assault weapons. At the beginning of each round, teams are assigned the affirmative or opposition side of the argument, the resolution is announced, and teams are then given 15 minutes to prepare their arguments.

Opportunity Network is a federally funded TRIO Student Support Services Program.  Our mission is to take a holistic approach to equip low-income, first generation college students or students with disabilities with the necessary skill set to complete a baccalaureate program and function as productive citizens in a global society.  We accomplish this by providing an array of supportive services including but not limited to academic advising, academic tutoring, financial aid assistance, graduate school preparation, as well as financial and economic literacy.  Currently, Opportunity Network receives $281,510 per year from the U.S. Department of Education to serve 160 program participants.

For more information, contact Selena Blair, director of Opportunity Network, at (864) 503-5965 or sblair@uscupstate.edu. Pictured in photo: Audria Claxton, Selena Blair and alexandra Dukes.

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