Meet Sumana from HLC International School: A young debater leading the students and making them kinder!

HLC Debating Society, or HLC DS for short, is a debate club founded by Sumana Alladi, an alum of HLC. HLC DS had been a dream of hers for a few months before it materialised in December 2021, and it has been growing since then. Now, HLC DS has 35 members. Recently, it has grown large enough that it has been split into 2 batches – a landmark moment for the little club.

Quite by chance, Sumana got the opportunity to coach 6 young debaters in October 2021 for a debate tournament. Just a week of watching young minds learn was enough to show her that she would simply love to coach debate seriously in the long term. It was this that catalysed the creation of HLC DS, combined with her desire to spread the culture of debate in HLC – she wanted to help those embers of talent grow into roaring flames.

HLC DS is something that is invaluable to her. She cherishes each meeting and each conversation that she has with her mentees. She does not think a price can be put on such a space, which is why she chooses to do it for free.

Sumana is loyal to HLC, and is invested in HLC students growing up to be thinking, doing individuals. As she always jokes, HLC is not getting rid of her very easily.

In HLC DS meetings, Sumana teaches parliamentary debate. The students learn to apply concepts like argument analysis, rebuttal, and mechanisation. They watch debates by hallowed debaters and learn from them, they practice debating live, and of course, they have lots and lots of fun. HLC DS has weekly meetings, and each session is 1 hour long.

The students debate a variety of topics, and learn how to make their case convincing. These essential skills of analysis and persuasion is what makes debating such an apt method of imbibing myriad other qualities like kindness and empathy. In addition to this, debating is a team sport. Students have to work together in order for them to win, and this teaches them how to be empathetic and listen actively to each other. It teaches them that good ideas can come from anywhere, and it teaches them to receive and implement feedback on their views. Also, they have to debate against strangers. Every debate coach stresses on opponent etiquette, and one of the most popular phrases in debating is ‘attack the case, not the person’.

This teaches students to respect everyone, no matter their opinion. It teaches them that it is unacceptable to hurt any other human being, even if they are your opponents. It teaches them the key difference between simply discussing one’s opinion and disregarding someone else’s. In these ways, debating (the right way) ensures that any student will become a better, kinder, more respectful person.

DS meetings are a breath of fresh air for Sumana, and are always very welcome. She is sure she learns at least one new thing every session – she says that her students have so much to teach her! Over the past months, she has formed bonds that cannot be broken. She hopes she has created a space in which everyone feels safe and included, and where learning is something to look forward to.

HLC DS’s one-year-anniversary is fast approaching, and Sumana cannot wait to celebrate a full year of amazing conversations, late night case prep, and most importantly, banging on the desk after speeches.

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