Debating is often associated with ancient Greece or public school, but its relevance in today’s world cannot be understated.
So, why does debating still matter?
At its core, debating teaches crucial skills that are valuable in all aspects of life:
The ability to speak confidently in public and make sense, construct a logical argument, read an audience’s reactions, and most importantly, listen to and respond to opposing arguments are all skills that are in high demand in today’s world.
Debating forces individuals to step outside of their own personal beliefs and embrace a wide variety of arguments. It teaches people to respect the other side of an argument and question their own opinions. It also encourages individuals to see the other side and to recognize that there is a commonality of capability, capacity, and sensibility among all people.
In a world where social media often encourages individuals to only seek out information that supports their own beliefs, debating is a powerful tool for overcoming the echo chamber effect. It challenges people to consider different perspectives and to engage in constructive dialogue with those who may hold opposing views.
Role of debating competitions
Debating competitions are a fantastic way to teach young people how to argue in public. These competitions require participants to construct and present persuasive arguments and to defend their positions in the face of opposition.
This kind of training is crucial for modern life. Political events continue to remind us of the importance of persuasive arguments and good oratory that appeal not only to our rational side, but also to our emotional side.
Diversity and Debate
Debating also helps promote diversity. The more experiences and backgrounds there are on a debating team, the stronger the team becomes. This is because diversity brings a variety of perspectives and ideas to the table, which helps to broaden the scope of the debate and ensure that all viewpoints are heard.
So, should you debate?
As we move forward into an increasingly complex and interconnected world, the ability to argue effectively will only become more important. So, whether you’re a high school student or a seasoned professional, there’s never been a better time to start honing your debating skills.
Great leadership usually starts young. It comes with a positive attitude and a desire to make a difference. Admission and scholarship review committees at colleges are always on the lookout for leadership qualities in young students. After all, investing in a bright future is beneficial for the college too.
Extra-curricular and co-curricular activities form an integral part of the learning experience. It would not be wrong to say that they are the nurturing grounds for qualities and traits that ultimately determine how the future shapes for a young student. Becoming a part of activities and events is a good way to start involving yourself in leadership building exercises.
If you want your college application to stand out and impress, you need to start the leadership demonstration process early.
Talk to your mentors, parents, friends and siblings about the activities and the leadership opportunity each activity offers. Involve yourself in the activities. That is the best way to identify what appeals to you most. Identifying the right activity and the opportunity it presents in the future is a strategic decision that you have to take early. The sooner you start, the more time you will have to work your way to the top. A college application shows the activity you were a part of and the level of commitment you dedicated towards it.
Let your passion to drive you forward
When you have found an activity that appeals to you, dive into it wholeheartedly! Be it sports, arts, robotics, theatre etc., discover your passion and rise to the top in that. Excel at your activity – an application does look more attractive if it has the words ‘President’, ‘Captain’, or ‘Editor’ on it!
Be enthusiastic. Volunteer.
Enthusiasm plays a major role in sustaining and excelling in your chosen activity. Legitimate and sincere interest in a subject is the key to achieving success. Volunteer for tasks – do not hesitate to put your hand up! An activity that keeps you enthusiastic and active will likely earn you consideration for a leadership role. While leadership is often recognised and valued, the path to the mantle is also equally important – it is this journey that the admissions office will look for in your college application as it conveys your true level of enthusiasm.
Rise to the occasion
The best way to demonstrate your abilities as a leader is by becoming one. Do not be afraid to accept responsibility and rise to the occasion. Value everyone’s ideas and thoughts, but make sure that your contributions to the group are recognised. A college application holds more value if it acknowledges and recognises your leadership and contributions.
Know how to tell your story
Colleges look for leaders because they see in them the drive to succeed. Leadership is not just about the position – it is a story about what you achieved in that position. Your role in the entire process and your problem solving skill and collaborative efforts is what the admissions office wants to hear. Putting down in words the salient moments of your leadership journey requires skill and clear articulation of thoughts. Join a workshop that addresses the important aspects of college applications – the essay writing and resume building. Having a story to tell is no good if you do not know how to narrate one!
The Big Red Group
At The Big Red Group, we will help you create impactful essays and winning resumes that will impress and help you get into your dream college. Our workshop will help you master the essential skills of essay writing and resume building.
Are you someone that is passionate about bringing a positive change to the world? Do you want to lead the struggle against pertinent issues like discrimination, climate change, poverty and inequality?
At Harvard Youth Lead the Change (a leadership development program for students in grades 8-12), our students provide real tangible solutions to social causes that they are extremely passionate about. Guided by expert mentors from Harvard, students take on issues such as water scarcity, discrimination, mental health and more through their intensive social change projects, many of which go live into the real world!
In the process, students become more empathetic, aware, confident and conscious individuals, equipped with skills of negotiation, research, leadership, teamwork and more!
Check out projects from our students that have gone live and benefited thousands of people!
1. Project Drakht
Started by Taahira Bhalla and Sia Bishnoi of The Shri Ram School, Moulsari – both from YLC 2016 – Project Drakht was set up to provide Ferozepur Meo, an underprivileged village in Haryana, with access to clean water. After conducting research and interviewing locals, they came up with a creative solution based around the water-purifying properties of the Moringa Oleifera (drumstick) trees.
Project Drakht ended up helping nearly 2,200 people from 300 families and is an example of how you can turn your budding ideas into full-fledged social change at Harvard YLC!
Project Veerangana, created during the YLC June 2021 conference, aims at creating equality between genders in India and eliminating violence against women. They solve this problem by creating awareness and educating adolescents through a curriculum delivered in different forms like videos or podcasts and through interviews with victims of violence. They collaborate with various NGOs and self-defence experts to empower women and be aware of their legal rights. Read more about them here!
3. Project Teens4Teens
Teens4Teens is a mental health, nonprofit organisation for teenagers and by teenagers, with the aim to spread awareness about mental health and the problems faced by every teenager. The idea for teens4teens originated at Harvard YLC 2016 and now, they have a following of over 9,000 and are doing exceptional work in the field of mental health. Check them out here!
Do you want to solve the issues you are passionate about through a social change project made under the guidance of Harvard Mentors? Check out Harvard Youth Lead the Change!
1. Learn from young & relatable mentors that treat you as their Equals!
Meet Sara Dahiya!
Sara participated as a high schooler in YLC in June 2019. Under delicate guidance from YLC mentors, she worked on The Patchwork Project, a social change project on Disability Awareness, which was implemented in 2 schools.
Her experiences and certification as a Harvard Youth Leader helped her immensely in her college applications, landing her not only a seat as a Harvard UG student in 2021, but also a mentorship position for Harvard YLC Jan 2022!
Sara Dahiya – from YLC participant to Harvard University student and mentor!
Sara as a Trainee at YLC 2019
Sara as a Mentor at YLC 2022
Harvard YLC features mentors like Sara that have garnered invaluable experience and training at a young age, and know what it takes to implement social change. But at the same time, they know what it is like to be high schoolers in the 21st century!
YLC Mentors will treat you not as blank canvases waiting to be filled, but as bright youngsters with insightful perspectives of their own, that is just waiting to be realized by the rest of the world.
2. Garner admission in top universities across the world!
Harvard YLC features dedicated college panels – which are sessions where our Ivy League mentors give you the tried-and-tested hacks and tips on how to crack into your dream universities. Students get to ask their doubts and receive expert answers on the spot!
Sara isn’t our only alumni that has found a place in a top University; The experiences and certification gained by our students at YLC gives them an edge in their college applications, garnering them seats in the universities of their dreams!
3. Create your Social Change Project!
Like Sara, all of our students work on a social change project during YLC, in which they tackle problems faced in their communities and lives. Several groups take these projects forward and beyond YLC, developing them into full-fledged realities!
Case in point – Project Drakht!
Taahira and Sia, founders of Project Drakht
Sia interviewing villagers from Ferozepur Meo
Started by Taahira Bhalla and Sia Bishnoi of The Shri Ram School, Moulsari – both from YLC 2016 – Project Drakht was set up to provide Ferozepur Meo, an underprivileged village in Haryana, with access to clean water.
They first pitched their idea during the conference, and after it received considerable attention and support, the duo implemented it. Project Drakht ultimately helped nearly 2,200 people from 300 families and is just one example of how you can turn your budding ideas into full-fledged social change at Harvard YLC!
4. Meet a diverse group of students from all over the world!
Since 2008, YLC has seen participation of students from all across the world, including from cities like Tokyo, Boston, Beijing, San Juan, Yangon, San Francisco and many more! Our diverse students each bring various ideas and perspectives to the YLC conference, waiting to mingle with each other and produce something impactful!
5. Participate in thought-provoking activities!
Leadership isn’t a rigid concept; it is an ever-evolving idea that means different things to different people. And as such, it can’t be taught through rote teaching and memorizing. That is why YLC is intent on not feeding you information, but invigorating your unique thought process. And our mentors do it through a ton of out-of-the-box activities!
Some of our activities include Snap to a Story, Cold-Calling, Letters to Your Future Self, and many more!
So what are you waiting for? Apply now to learn with students from Shiv Nadar School, The Shri Ram Schools, Vasant Valley, The British School and more!
Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders – that is, only if they procrastinate! Young Leaders are not just the leaders of tomorrow – they can be the leaders of today as well. They have the passion, energy and commitment to make a difference. If the youth arise and act, they have the strength and dynamism to lead a huge transformation.
Although leadership comes naturally, it is never a bad idea to seek guidance. The right direction at the right time can make all the difference. Ask yourself if what you are doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow. The best part about starting young is that you have the advantage of age and the benefit of fresh thoughts to guide your path.
Here are 10 ways by which you can develop leadership skills as a teen –
1. Be a Voice, Not an Echo
If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more, you are a leader. Great leaders do not set out to be a leader, they set out to make a difference. They do not tell you what to do – they show you how it is done. Learn to lead from the front and lead by example. Think different. Be a voice that stands out.
2. Boost Your Confidence
A bird sitting on a branch is never afraid of the branch breaking because its trust is not on the branch, but on its own wings. Trust your abilities and sharpen your skills. Never be afraid of any situation. If you are capable, no challenge can limit your success.
3. Persist with Persistence
People have great plans for success, but rarely do they have a plan for handling failure. As a leader, it is invariable to face success and failure. By bracing yourself for disappointments, you can be better prepared to handle loss and march towards success. Success is not final, neither is failure fatal. It is the courage to keep pushing on that counts.
4. Decide and abide!
It is imperative to hone your decision-making abilities. Too many choices tend to leave a person bamboozled. When the pressure of the decision rests on you, it is but natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. It is good to challenge yourself with situations. By doing so, you can weigh the pros and cons and explore the facets of the problem. This allows you to practice making informed decisions right from an early age.
Role-playing different outcomes of a fictional scenario is an exercise that involves analysis and the decision-making process. It lets you experience how choices affect your decision-making ability.
Practice confident communication. Clarity of thought results in effective communication. Effective communicators are usually great at rallying around a team. They get more work done with fewer words. Speak clearly and weigh your words. To improve your communication skills, you can proactively engage in confidence-building exercises like maintaining an assertive communications record, a daily log of assertive and effective communications you made on that day.
6. Enrol in a Leadership Development Program
A Leadership Development Program provides you with opportunities to participate in activities and workshops. It helps you learn from challenges and works at identifying your strengths and weaknesses. A good leadership development program provides you with real-world tasks that teach you evaluation, planning, strategies, work allocations and analysing results. It also gives you exposure and networks that are an invaluable advantage.
7. Find a Mentor
As a teen, you are capable of far more than you, or those around you, give you credit for. A mentor will help you discover your true potential and your capability of becoming a leader. A mentor is someone who has been down the road before and thus knows the way. They are always there to guide you, motivate you, encourage you, correct you, criticise you and cheer for you when you achieve the results. A good mentor is an invaluable asset.
8. Read Read Read
The benefits of reading are innumerable. Reading broadens the mind, stimulates thoughts and has a direct impact upon actions. As a teen leader, it is a great idea to invest in knowledge and learning. Intellectual progress is connected to success. Books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “Leadership & Self-Deception”, “The Making of a Leader” etc. are worth investing your time on.
9. Explore Your Limits
To push beyond boundaries you must first be aware of where the boundaries are. As a teen, you have the advantage of time and infinite energy. You can test your limits and discover your strengths. At the same time, you can also work at improving upon your shortcomings. Explore your limits, it is the key to expanding them.
10. Observe. Listen. Process. Implement
If you want to be heard, your first step is to listen. Observing and listening to others will offer you different perspectives. It gives you multiple takes to deal with situations. By gathering inputs, evaluating options, and implementing the most suitable solution you can always come out as a winner.
The path to leadership and success is long. The sooner you embark on the journey, the quicker you will reach the destination. Start young. Do something different. The dynamism of youth is a great catalyst for change. You have the potential to rock the world.
Unleash The Leader In You with YLC
Youth Lead the Change is a leadership development program created by professors of the Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, and the Harvard School of education, and held by Harvard students. Held for students in grades 8 – 12, the program aims at empowering students and unlocking their leadership capabilities as they develop tangible solutions to global problems. Over the 7 day course, the students work in a group to understand a global issue and develop a social change project to address it. Through this program, students learn about core leadership skills such as collaboration, public speaking, time management, and self-knowledge.
The Harvard trainers also hold one-on-one sessions with students who continue to serve as mentors after the program. On finishing the program, there is an opportunity to complete mentorship for an entire year, to implement their project. Presented by The Leadership Institute at Harvard College (LIHC), this Harvard student organization aims to provide and promote leadership development opportunities across the world.