When Alta High School opened its doors in 1978, history teacher Rique Ochoa wasted no time forming a debate team. He had a limited budget, district-established travel restrictions, and only a handful of students on the team. But that didn’t stop Ochoa from making big plans. If his team at Alta couldn’t travel the country to compete with other top-notch students and have a shot at winning the national competition for a college scholarship, then Ochoa decided those top-ranked teams would have to come to Alta.
Alta’s first Silver and Black Invitational Tournament, organized by Ochoa 24 years ago, had five out-of-state schools come to compete in the contest to have a shot at qualifying for the octafinals at the national Tournament of Champions.
This year, 58 schools from 13 different states are registered to compete at the tournament, which will take place beginning at 3 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 29, until Saturday, Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. at Alta, 11055 S. Hawk Hwy. (1000 East). The tournament is now a semifinal qualifier for students engaged in Policy debate for the Tournament of Champions a distinction equal to that of debate tournament host Stanford University.
Students who attend the tournament will be able to qualify in three different areas of debate: Lincoln-Douglas, a one-on-one debate style; Policy, a public speaking debate forum that requires the most intense research and preparation; and Public Forum, a group setting that appeals to the masses the most, Ochoa said.
Participating in debate, especially on a national level, teaches students priceless skills not necessarily taught in the classroom, says Ochoa, who still teaches at Alta although he retired as the school’s debate coach 17 years ago.
“Debate is the great, great teacher because it teaches kids … listening, note-taking, analytical and research skills,” he said.