Volunteer Spotlight: Adai Truong

Adai Truong

Adai Truong has been a consistent judge throughout our middle school debate season, sharing their time and debate expertise for our students. In honor of National Volunteer Month, we want to recognize Adai’s contribution to the activity! Read on to learn more about Adai’s experience going from competing to judging, their paradigm, and their future dreams for debate.

When Adai Truong isn’t judging middle school debate tournaments, you might find them at their own debate practice, a student council meeting, or out trying new foods with friends. This tenth grader at Central High School in St. Paul went from being nervous about attending debate tournaments at all to being involved in as many facets of the debate community as possible. Truong’s change of heart happened a year ago, when their fellow debaters made them feel like part of the team. 

“We had one tournament when one of our teams made it to sections, so everyone else on the debate team decided to stay because we all wanted to be together at that point, even though we were super tired. We’re always there for each other and help each other get through things and learn things.”

Once they felt comfortable with their team, Truong ventured into new territory in January of 2023 by deciding to become a volunteer judge for middle school debate tournaments. Even with debate experience under their belt, Truong was a little nervous about switching roles. 

“[During] my first ever debate, I was super anxious. I didn’t know what to do. Now you’re not just in the debate. You have time to observe everything so you’re listening a lot more. In a real debate round, when you’re debating, you have to spend time listening and try to come at everything well, as well as trying to make up your own case and argument. While I think being a judge, you can just watch everyone, see where they are at, how they’re doing, and it makes it easier for you to write down comments.”

After judging ten middle school tournaments, Truong has figured out how to best give feedback to the debaters. They mainly focus on making sure the most important aspects of the debaters argument have been taken care of before going into any more detail. 

“I think about the important debates in the round and I think about the impacts and harms that these students are talking about. How did they prove it? And I would also think about how they plan to solve something if they are the affirmative. How is the negative pointing out flaws in the affirmative’s plan? Making sure that everyone’s responding to each other’s argument is also something that I really want to listen to. I want to know that they’re interacting with each other and not just off of a script and actively responding to each other.”

Truong said being a judge for younger debaters also helps them in their own debates. The young debaters often remind Truong of the importance of prep time and teamwork, two things they have noticed in the strongest teams. Although Adai says that judging benefit of improves their own debating, their main motivation for volunteering is because it is a great space for young people to have fun. 

“Something that I’d always pondered since I’m actually in debate is the value of debate. Especially judging those debates, I can see that the students are having fun and they have a community to be in. Something like that is very important when you’re in school, because one point of school is trying to find your community- the space that you’re going to do well and be happy in. And I think debate is a great place to have that. The people there are great, and you can also learn a lot of things. It can be very important, especially for all the students who might not be able to learn as much in classes or want to learn more. They have this opportunity to get in more information and also find people to hang out with and have fun with in debate tournaments.”

Truong hopes to continue debating throughout high school, while taking on more judging opportunities and one day coaching a middle school team. They dream of continuing to debate through college as they study law, with the plan to become a corporate lawyer. With that successful career, Truong dreams of being able to buy a mansion where they can live with their mom and grandma!