Raniya Abawari: A High-Flying Maverick

Raniya Portrait

Raniya poses before a virtual East African Debate tournament.

Caption: Raniya poses before a virtual East African Debate tournament. 


Raniya Abawari is on a roll! In fall, Raniya Abawari won the top speaker award in the rookie division 5 times during the policy debate season. This spring, Raniya earned both the top speaker and top team award at the final East African Debate tournament. Oh- and she did it all while debating without a partner! 


Beyond excelling at tournaments, Raniya also used her persuasive skills and love of debate to help establish a new East African Debate team at Highland Park Senior High School. 


She drew upon her own experiences to persuade other students to join. We couldn’t say her elevator pitch better ourselves!


“I think you should join debate because of the skill set you acquire. You learn how to build arguments, speak in public, and it builds confidence. It’s not really about winning. I don’t care about winning and losing. The experience of debating in and of itself is cool. It also helps you think critically, so you can see both sides of things. That’s valuable for your future, whatever you go into.”


“We only had four people on the team this year,” Raniya tells us. “But I’m optimistic for next year, because we did well. If others see we can win, they’ll want to join.” 


The East African Debate Experience 


In our East African Debate, coaches from the East African community lead students in debating community-centric topics with an emphasis on problem solving. This year, students debated whether East African representation on the police force would improve community safety. 


“I like East African Debate because we can chime in about our own experiences. We’re all East Africans, so we’re all affected by the topic. It’s something we really believe in. It’s very applicable to our real world,” Raniya tells us.  


Demands for police reform dominated political conversations in this politically charged year. East African Debate offers an opportunity for students to cut through the noise and grapple with their own thoughts and feelings on the issue. Raniya shares, 


“Debate helps, because it made me see things from both sides of the story, even if I didn’t agree with it. If I knew what the other sides think, I could see the reasoning behind it or even disprove it. That helps me understand my own side better. It made me empathetic toward other people and be able to not see things at face value. I can see biases in what I’m reading.” 


Looking Ahead 


As a first-year debater, Raniya’s never had the chance to experience in-person tournaments. When she started, that was just fine with her: 


“Behind a screen, your confidence skyrockets. I’ll have to see next year if I get shy and nervous. I’ve gotten a lot of confidence, so I think I’ll be okay. I’ll have experience under my belt.” 


That confidence is Raniya’s main takeaway from her first year in debate: 


“My siblings are all very athletic and good at math. I can’t relate to that. Debate was the first thing that made me think, ‘I’m good at this, and I can improve.’”


Raniya is excited to debate in-person next year, but some things won’t change. 


“I’ve been going maverick all year! I actually really like debating alone. I like being in control of how the arguments are forming.” 


Whether Raniya keeps debating as a maverick or with a partner as we move back to in-person debate, we know her new-found skills and confidence will serve her well! 

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