Student Spotlight: Geneva Mclain

Debate student finds a place to belong


Lindsie Alley

Junior debate student, Geneva Mclain, poses for her feature story.

by McKenzie Henningsen, Co-Editor in Chief

As 30 students shuffled out of the classroom, junior Geneva Mclain realized she needed to find somewhere to belong in high school, and it wasn’t in Principles of Architecture.

Mclain has been in debate classes since her freshman year, but she joined the Leander Debate Team during her sophomore year after transferring from Stony Point High School. 

“I really like it for the community,” Mclain said. “Not only are the people on the team amazing and have a contagious enthusiasm, but the people I meet at tournaments are [also] really nice.”

With only about 60 kids in the program, Mclain was automatically promoted to captain of policy debate, also referred to as cross-examination debate. In this form of competition, teams of two advocate for or against a theoretical resolution that requires a policy change by the United States federal government.

“I like being able to learn about real things going on in the world and being able to make an argument about it,” Mclain said. “It makes me feel more grounded to know what’s happening around me.”

Along with senior Danae Barkocy, Mclain takes initiative in the classroom by teaching other members of the debate team.

“We started out trying to plan everything, then [we] just decided to roll with the punches,” Mclain said. “Since we both are IB students, it actually makes it easier on us to just make a general outline of what class will look like [beforehand], then cross the bridge when we get to it.”

As many teachers do, Mclain has worked with Barkocy to develop an idea of what an ideal lesson plan looks like.

“Our teaching style is to sandwich the lecture in the middle,” Mclain said. “We open with speaking, class engaging activities. Then, we do a lecture on what events look like, and finally [we] end by putting it into practice.”

Collaborating with others in a leadership role can cause some disagreements, but Mclain has figured out how to work with Barkocy since the start of the year.

“It was hard at first adjusting to each other, not stepping on each other’s toes,” Mclain said. “Now, we’re dancing pretty flawlessly.”

Being a leader sets challenges like class participation and a lack of patience, but Mclain has learned to manage the role.

“We have some kids who don’t want to engage, and that’s frustrating, but we just focus on the ones who want to be there,” Mclain said. “It’s really helped me to see the good in people. I’m the kind of person who stays in my lane and has a short tolerance for people’s stuff. Being in a leadership position and dealing with people who are different than me has helped me with patience and to be understanding.”

McClain will be participating in a debate tournament on Sept. 7 at Leander High School along with close to 300 other students.