Sixth Form Student Qualifies for International Championship


Jiwoo Han ’24 for The Circle Voice

Standing tall and hands gesturing, Steven Pang ’22 can often be seen in the forum coaching the Groton debate team. He has won numerous awards at high school tournaments and is the co-president of the Groton Debating Society. Earlier this fall, Steven achieved a particularly significant feat: he qualified for the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships. Only around 100 high schoolers have the opportunity to participate each year, and it is extremely competitive as students from over a dozen countries vie for spots at the international tournament.

Groton participates in the Debating Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS) league, which consists of schools in the ISL, Founders League, and Six School League. Throughout the school year, schools in the association host tournaments, and a debater can qualify for Worlds by winning “best advanced speaker” at one of these tournaments. Steven ranked first at the Roxbury Latin debate this September, making him one of only two Groton students who has qualified for Worlds in the past fifteen years.

Reaching such an advanced level of debate was no easy journey for Steven. “When I first started, I was one of the worst debaters Groton has ever had,” said Steven. “At the first tournament I went to in Third Form, I scored lower than any other Groton student in the past ten or fifteen years.”

However, through consistent practice and hard work, Steven vastly improved his persuasive speaking skills. “In the past, the debate club was much less active, so I often practiced with my partner, Jiacheng Kang ’22, or sometimes even spoke towards a wall,” Steven said. “In Fourth and Fifth Form, my partner and I got more serious about debate. Over this past summer, we started understanding principled arguments, which has given our thinking a lot more dimensionality.” Steven also thanked mathematics teacher Michael Gnozzio ’03 and former Classics teacher Andres Reyes ’80, Groton’s debate advisors, for their help in training and improving his debating skills.

Now that he has qualified for Worlds, Steven plans on spending more time training less experienced debaters. “Debate is an incredibly fun activity, and the teamwork and camaraderie you build along the way is amazing. I hope to try and show younger students why debate is so awesome. While I’m coaching, I learn more about the fundamentals, which also helps me improve in the process,” said Steven.

Under Steven and Jiacheng’s leadership, Groton’s debate team has flourished in the past year. At the end of the 2020-2021 debate season, Groton debate was tied for second place in the DANEIS league. 

As for Steven’s goals at Worlds next spring? Steven announced, “I’m planning on crushing all of my opponents and stomping them into the ground.”