LEXINGTON, Ky. (April. 8, 2022) — Nishita Chaduvula started volunteering for the Bluegrass Debate Coalition (BDC) as part of her school club’s volunteer requirement. However, her time at the BDC soon morphed from an assigned obligation into an unprompted desire to help. She now serves as one of the organization’s most helpful volunteers.
The BDC, overseen by the University of Kentucky's championship Intercollegiate Debate Team housed in the College of Communication and Information, is an organization that works with Kentucky schools to make competitive debate available to all elementary, middle and high school students. Since September 2020, the coalition has worked to increase academic performance, enrich college and career opportunities and provide the intellectual and networking tools for youth to thrive as active, responsible leaders in their communities.
The Louisville-based Meyzeek Middle School seventh grader first joined the BDC as a sixth-grade student soon after the organization’s launch. She attended debate workshops and camps to supplement the work she was doing in her school’s debate club. After also joining her school’s Beta Club this school year, and learning about its volunteer mandate, Nishita saw an opportunity to give back while doing something she loved.
“I love the idea of teaching other kids how to debate and helping them with their debating,” Nishita said. “So, I decided that for some of my hours, I would volunteer at the BDC.”
As a BDC volunteer, Nishita serves as a junior curriculum developer, researcher, mentor and judge for the elementary students. Once given a topic or skill to create a lesson plan for, she uses research and her personal debate experience to create slideshows and video presentations. She then helps distribute the workload in the larger online classes by splitting up the students and giving them a topic to debate, providing them real-time advice. She also provides feedback as a judge during elementary events.
“Nishita has been a tremendous asset to our organization,” Bill Eddy, director of the BDC, said. “Volunteerism is at the heart of what we do at the BDC. Not only do we arrange for classes and events, but we also must staff those activities with qualified mentors. As part of our commitment to providing a deeper learning experience, we employ an apprenticeship style learning experience where more experienced students assist us in the teaching/learning process by working with less experienced students.”
While Nishita was in the role of teacher, she also found herself as a student among her quick-learning and talented mentees. After she started volunteering with the BDC, she realized attending more workshops could also help her grow as a debater just as much as they were helping her elementary students.
Her school’s debate club started its season in September 2021 with Nishita’s first tournament taking place in December. She won two of three debates, a vast improvement since her sixth-grade season. Her father, Rameswara Chaduvula, said that her involvement with the BDC has not only improved her debate skills but her communication and teaching skills as well.
Although Meyzeek’s Beta Club only requires Nishita to put in 30 hours of volunteer work in a school year, and she is already more than halfway through the requirement, she doesn’t plan on this limiting her involvement with the BDC. She has loved both the learning and teaching experience the BDC has given her, not to mention the personal connections she’s made along the way.
“I hope to have an impact on the kids that I help, even if it’s really small,” Nishita said. “I want to help them in their journey because if I had that much help when I was younger in fourth and fifth grade, I felt like I would be so much better. So, I hope that they at least can learn from me and I can help them in their journey.”
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