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Sarah Levy with World Debate Cup in Doha, Qatar



By Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng.

Sarah Levy, a grade 11 student at St. John’s-Ravenscourt School in Winnipeg, was part of this year’s victorious Canadian Debating Team which won the World Debating Championships in Doha, Qatar, on February 16, 2010 in a final-round debate against England.

Debating is a formal activity where two teams argue over a given topic. One side is "for" the topic, while the other side is "against." Points are awarded by a panel of adjudicators

Levy along with three students from Vancouver, two from Calgary, and three from Halifax, made up the victorious Team Canada. The team, which represents the pinnacle of high school debating, competes for Canada in international tournaments.

As Tracey-Ann Lee, the coach for Canada’s Debating Team told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “Sarah is a very organized and methodical debater; her analysis is structured and clearly laid out. It also helps that she has a very confident and engaging speaking style!”

Debate teamLevy told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that she discovered her passion for debating in the eighth grade. She is the only Jewish member of the Canada’s victorious national team.

When asked if her Jewish background has ever played a role in her debating career, Levy replied, “Being Jewish has always been a non-issue to my team mates and at competitions. All of us have very different knowledge because we all come from very different backgrounds so we have something different to contribute when it comes to cultural or religious topics. So that was definitely advantageous, to have such a broad scope of individual members on the debating team.”

The 2010 World Debate Championship was a 10 day competition, where teams from 57 nations debated topics such as a country's right to possess nuclear weapons, a doctor’s obligation to report signs of marital abuse, and the need for military intervention in Somalia.

Team Canada was undefeated going into the final round against a delegation from England. Arguing that governments should never bail out big businesses, the team handily won the match 8-3 over England.

It has been over 20 years since a Canadian high school debate team has taken home the top spot at this prestigious competition.

Those selected to represent Canada train for approximately one year, including attending a special summer camp, before heading to the world championships.

When asked , how many hours a week  the students train and practice debating, coach Lee answered,  “Most of the training for the national team involves weekly readings, research for briefing papers and writing cases; this usually involves about 8-10 hours/week without including the regular club practices and tournament preparation that is usually involved in keeping their debating skills sharp. As we get closer to the Worlds, preparation time can go up to about 15 hours a week.”  

When asked how she makes time for everything she enjoys doing, which in addition to debating includes painting and reading, Levy responded:

Debating Team Canada in Doha, Qatar
Debating Team Canada in Doha, Qatar
“It’s all a matter of good time management and prioritizing. Sometimes, I think I spend a bit too much time on debate or on school work, but everything usually works out in the end. I usually have to take time away from other activities, like sleep and I had to quit dance class, to get everything done that I need to do. I still take art lessons, though.”
Levy, the daughter of Barbara and Moe Levy [the executive director of the Winnipeg’s Asper Foundation] enrolled in Ravenscourt last September after attending the Winnipeg Board of Jewish Education’s Gray Academy to the end of Grade 10.

Levy has only positive things to say about her experience in Qatar.

“It is a beautiful country where everything is new. The country borders Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Sea. It is a very liberal, economically stable, and prosperous country.  The people are wonderful and extremely gracious. It was one of the most luxurious debating trips I have ever been on. The Championships were organized well and ran smoothly,” she noted.

Levy and the other Canadian students celebrated their debating victory with a trip to the desert where they camped out in Bedouin tents.

Regarding her family, friends and future plans, Levy says, “My parents are obviously very proud of me and support me in everything I do. I have a large circle of family and friends in Winnipeg who care about me, but I hope to go to McGill or University of Toronto to have a different university experience than the typical Winnipegger. I am a fan of Montreal and Toronto and I would enjoy being in either of those environments. Unfortunately, I don’t speak French very well.”
Scenic view in Doha, Qatar
Scenic view in Doha, Qatar

Levy does not take for granted her talent, ability, good fortune and success. She is modest when discussing her exciting life of debating and travelling. As she says, “I am happy that I have the opportunity to debate. I feel very privileged and lucky to do it because it has opened a lot of positive doors for me.”

Levy may pursue a career in law or international relations.

Next year, she’ll be off to Dundee, Scotland where she will be representing Canada again at the next world championship, scheduled for August 2011.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review wishes Sarah good luck with her future endevours.

Rhonda Prepes Rhonda Prepes is an engineer, educator, mother, and writer in Winnipeg.


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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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