Ryan is originally from Woonsocket, Rhode Island and graduated from Woonsocket Public Schools. He then went on to CCRI, URI, eventually earning his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees from NEIT in Video Audio Production and Digital Recording Arts Technology. Ryan writes, “I am a VISTA because I wanted to serve with the Rhode Island Urban Debate League, an organization that, while in high school, empowered me to speak up and encouraged me to succeed. I also believe that working as a VISTA allows me to do work centered in spreading positive opportunities, and building community.” After VISTA, Ryan plans to continue his journey of learning, teaching, being joyful, looking at clouds, smelling flowers, and dancing to the music that is life!
Have you ever taken a class in a subject you really knew well, thinking, “I could be teaching this class”? Due to my experience as a debater in the Rhode Island Urban Debate League, the content taught in these classes were things I had learned and perfected long ago, and were really dull. As a VISTA, this led me to thinking, can’t Rhode Island Urban Debate League debaters teach college students?
Over the course of this semester, I worked together with a Global Economy class at Providence College. This collaboration gave me the great experience of helping this class learn how to debate. I watched as the students learned the basics of argumentation, and the idiosyncrasies of policy debate. It was extremely rewarding for both the class and myself, but the real treat was at the end of the semester.
Part of the final grade for the Global Economy class related to final debate rounds. The class and myself, thought who better to judge a round than the Mount Pleasant Debate Team? Along with their coach Diane Grossi, 8 Mount Pleasant debaters played professor, effectively reversing their typical student/debate roles!
The panel of Mount Pleasant judges listened intently, while both sides argued the topic: “Resolved: The United States should substantially increase foreign aid to Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Mount Pleasant took diligent notes, and evaluated individual speeches. The round came to a close, and one by one, the Mount Pleasant Debate Team judges delivered verbal critiques that were truly dazzling. Their feedback utilized their own experience and growth through debate as a springboard.
Sarah Murray, a Mount Pleasant debater exclaimed, “What an exciting round! Before this, I hadn’t been able to keep such an amazingly thorough flow!” (Flow is a debate term referring to note taking) The other Mount Pleasant debaters echoed these remarks. They expressed how serving as a judge allowed them to reflect on and further develop their own debating abilities.
Alexis Villani, a senior at Mount Pleasant noted that despite the close proximity of her school and Providence College, she had only ever seen the campus from the outside. This evening changed that in a special and unique way. Now Alexis has not only been inside the beautiful campus, but she has helped teach a class! The Mount Pleasant Debate team and the Providence College class can’t wait for the next debate!
Working as an AmeriCorps*VISTA is truly an exciting and enlightening experience. Although it is commonly referred to as “indirect service”, I am so often directly seeing the impact of my work, and bearing witness to many new progressive and exciting ideas in education.