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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)– Some middle school students at Esperanza Charter School are getting in shape for a big tournament this Saturday.  They’re exercising their brains to compete against other schools in the Crescent City Debate League.  WGNO reporter Deepak Saini shows that they’re smarter than most grown ups!

Every argument has two sides.  The topic?  Should oil and gas companies pay reparations for coastal destruction of wetlands?  Building a strong argument takes a lot of practice.

“It’s like basketball, or sports or orchestra or band,” says 8th grader Jennifer Castro.

The debate team is broken up into two groups, each challenging the other.

“I’d like to refute some of my opponents with what they said that they’re alternative jobs to fisherman,” debates 8th grader Jaahi DeBose.

The young debaters are being mentored by students from Tulane University.  The practice is essential since the students will be competing against more than a dozen other schools at the Crescent City Debate League.

“They don’t know until they get to the tournament which side they’ll argue so they have to have good arguments on both sides,” says leage co-director Ryan McBride.

The topics aren’t easy, they’re tough even for most adults to understand.

“Teachers have often come up to me and told me how refreshing it was and exciting it was to see their students really dig their teeth into challenging issues like these,” says McBride.

A challenge, that’s helping these students find their voice.

“When I joined debate, I gained the confidence, I gained the knowledge as well, and I thought, maybe I can be a lawyer and I can achieve that and I can do good things in the future,” says Castro,

If you would like to attend Saturday’s debate, you can find more information here.