MORRISTOWN, NJ - Collaboration. Competition. Celebration.

Congratulations to the 2019 7th Grade Frelinghuysen Middle School (FMS) Debate team for combining these special elements in their collective performance in the Morris Area Debates held at the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station.

The competition, held on Thursday, May 30th, was sponsored by the New Jersey Consortium of Gifted & Talented Programs, Inc. (NJCGTP). Forty-two teams from eight area schools, including Chatham, Frelinghuysen (Morristown), Jefferson, Livingston, Mendham Country Day, Mt. Olive, Oakland, and Wharton competed in this annual event.

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The competitors debated the resolution “Be it resolved that the manufacture and sale of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be banned in the United States.” Teams designated as “Affirmative” supported the resolution for change, while the “Negative” squads opposed the resolution, thus supporting the “status quo.” The teams researched the issue using the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (C-E-R) methodology that is taught school-wide at FMS. Both sides were required to present logical arguments to support their case and creatively refute
(i.e. attack) the opposition case.

The awards were as follows, but that was just a small part of the story:
Mary Gillen and Elise Hinrichs - Varsity Negative 1st Place
Samson Cukor and Gavin Varneckas - Varsity Affirmative 2nd Place

In addition to the teams above, the Negative pair of Laura Wild and Emma Siegel and the Affirmative team of Thomas Gleichmann and David Vigilante survived a rigorous internal FMS run-off competition involving 18 fully-engaged pairs of debaters. It is especially noteworthy that these 7th graders, who were in their first year of debate competition, were competing in the Varsity division against a mix of 7th & 8th graders from other schools, many with two to three years of debate experience under their belts... this was a TRULY OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE!

The internal qualifying competition at FMS consisted of a grueling two to three debate contest for each pair. This initial round was judged by a combination of trained parent judges and a group of veteran 8th grade debaters. Special thanks are due to the parent judges - Kristen Stuek,
Sandy Cassidy, Linnea Hasegawa, Anne McDonald
AND one former FMS Debater, Tommy Cromie, who is now rising Sophomore at Davidson College in North Carolina. Tommy was kind enough to steal a couple of days from his busy schedule - he is headed to a summer internship in Washington, D.C. The judges were trained in the debate scoring and attended practice debates to home their judging skills.

The 8th graders were Margaret Bautista, Olivia Chowdhury, Emma Collins, Angelissa Gutierrez, Cate Hassan, and Matt McDonald. All of the above generously volunteered their time in this great collaborative effort.

After the scoring was tabulated from this initial round, a set of final qualifying matches were judged by veteran debaters from Morristown High School. The MHS volunteers, including many active members of the MHS Mock Trial Team, were Alex Arenas, Julia Bozza, Jake Fisher, Justin Gregor, Evan Haralampoudis, Michael Mohs, Nina Mohs, Elizabeth Mongey, Jared Murtha, Sean Oddoye, Sarah Penrice, Ava Tan, Nick Tapkas, Nick Voltaggio, and Jessica Vogel. By now you are likely detecting the constant thread of collaboration running through this incredible Morris School District grade 7-12 effort!

The final round generated the following TEAM results:
David Vigilante & Thomas Gleichmann
Samson Cukor & Gavin Varneckas
Kelcey Gervasio & Elizabeth Gillen
Michelle Lee & Lincoln Stuek

Mary Gillen & Elise Hinrichs
Emma Siegel & Laura Wild
Mia Bedoya & Cameron McGinley
Olivia Gustavsen &  Michelle Ona

The FMS Debates yielded individual results as well. Although the teams debated in pairs, each individual had their own score. It is very important to note when interpreting these results that debate scoring is a very subjective process, There were many quality debaters that just missed qualifying for the top individual awards.

1st Place: Elizabeth Gillen
2nd Place: Samson Cukor
3rd Place: Michelle Lee
Honorable Mention (debaters that averaged better than 30 out of 40 possible points - alpha order) Chris Cioffi, Arien Deepu, Kelcey Gervasio,Thomas Gleichmann, Lincoln Stuek, Gavin Varneckas, David Vigilante

1st Place: Olivia Gustavsen
2nd Place: Elise Hinrichs
3rd Place: Laura Wild
Honorable Mention (same as above) Mia Bedoya, Mary Gillen, Cameron McGinley, Eric Ottaiano,Emma Siegel

Student reflections included comments such as:

“This took a lot of preparation, but it was definitely worth it, and I had so much fun with the
project. It was a great experience!”

“I was really excited to debate this year. I have never had an opportunity to do something like

“Debate was stressful, but it was fun to get the opportunity to learn more about GMOs and
learn how debate works.”

“Debate was a great experience that improved our public speaking skills and overall
confidence... plus, we were able to see many other very talented debaters from other schools.”

Collaboration. Competition. Celebration. Hey, it looks like we forgot the 4th “C” - who forgot to bring the CONFETTI?