AITE junior's 'dramatic' oration wins her the CT debate competition

Photo of Ignacio Laguarda
Aishwarya Sivasubramanian, a junior at the Academy of Information Technology an Information, recently won first place in the Connecticut state championship for debate.

Aishwarya Sivasubramanian, a junior at the Academy of Information Technology an Information, recently won first place in the Connecticut state championship for debate.

Contributed photo

STAMFORD — The key to Aishwarya Sivasubramanian’s recent first place finish in the state championship for debate was staying calm and relaxed, and coming into the day with low expectations.

It was something she and her debate partner, Kevin Fleischer, talked about before the big day.

“We really went into the day with the mindset of, ‘Let’s do our best and have fun today,’” Sivasubramanian said.

That approach allowed the duo to deftly overcome the challenges of the competition, in which nervousness can often derail a competitor’s performance.

Sivasubramanian and Fleischer, students at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, almost took home the top prize, but fell just short in the final against a team from E.O. Smith High School in Storrs.

While the team finished in second, Sivasubramanian was voted by judges as the top individual competitor. They said she excelled at keeping them interested and engaged when it was her turn to talk.

Sivasubramanian described her approach as “dramatic,” which balances well with Flesicher’s more measured, calm delivery.

“I like standing and using my hands and I use my body language,” Sivasubramanian said.

Sivasubramanian said she loves speaking in front of a crowd, which made her a natural for the debate team. But even for someone with such natural speaking abilities, she said being on debate team has benefited her immensely, and she recommends it to all students.

“It significantly helped my public speaking,” she said. “At the end of the day, if you can’t talk to people, it’s going to be really difficult when you’re in the real world.”

The topic of this year’s championship debate, which was held virtually, was “Resolved: The United States should have an open immigration policy.”

In all, 35 Stamford Public Schools students — more than any other Connecticut school district — qualified and competed in the Connecticut Debate Association state finals on March 27.

Stamford High School senior Panos Ketonis was the next best Stamford competitor, earning fifth place.

Debate participants are judged individually and in teams. The AITE team of Claire Paolini and Lex Ylitalo finished in fifth, while Westhill High School’s Aryan Donikena and James Grosso came away with 10th place.

Stamford High sophomore Ryan Shoztic finished as the ninth place speaker, while Fleischer secured 10th place.

Twenty-seven schools statewide had at least one student debater qualify for the championship.

“In a world that is becoming increasingly more apathetic toward the value of honest and informed discourse, I truly believe the SPS debate programs are doing our students, our community and our society as a whole a tremendous service,” said Stamford High debate coach Jeremy White, through a school district press release. “Debate program students are bucking the trend, learning to express themselves and effectively communicate a position.”

ignacio.laguarda@stamfordadvocate.com