Front row, left to right: Aria Hunt, Phillip Geiser, Grace Osusky, Aidan Guzman-Newton, Katie Wiederhold, Ana Castner, Ty Martinez and Tanner Mascaro. Back row, left to right: Jaidyn Thomas, Remy Davis, Mary Kimmerle, Neo Hill, Tobin Wainer, Jayden Dowd, Carlin Bierschied, Wilson Schmidt and Emma Millis. Some of the debate team members will participate in a mock congress at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center on Monday, Nov. 14. [Courtesy photo]

Should Moab raise its minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $15?

Learn the pros and cons when the Grand County High School debate team argues the issue at a mock congress on Monday, Nov. 14, at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North.

Those who have never seen a student congress will be impressed by how professional and knowledgeable the students are, GCHS debate coach Carrie Strecker said.

There’s a joke inside the student debate world that kids’ congresses accomplish more than the real Congress in Washington, D.C., Strecker said.

“There will be no 20 hours of reading Dr. Seuss,” she promised.

Students will be prepared to speak on either side of the minimum wage issue, and answer, on the spot, questions posed by other students.

“It’s not scripted,” said Strecker, who expects 10 to 15 students to participate.

The Grand County League of Women Voters invited the high school debate team to tackle the topic because it’s “of interest to the community,” LWV vice president Darcey Brown said. The nonpartisan group presents topical issues in monthly programs that are open to the public.

The senior debate team captain, 17-year old Tobin Wainer, will call on different students to stand and give speeches about the merits or detriments to raising Moab’s minimum wage. Students will also be called on to ask questions of the speaker.

“One of the biggest things debate club has taught me is how to think critically,” said Wainer, who has spent four years on the team. “You have to be able to argue both sides and actually see both sides (of an issue).”

While the event is free, the debate team is accepting donations to help fund its trip to a tournament the following weekend in Tempe, Arizona, at Arizona State University. Additionally, local businesses have donated items for which the team will be selling raffle tickets at the mock congress.

Attending debate tournaments hosted by universities is a good way for students to see college campuses, Strecker said.

Strecker used to teach high school debate in Tillamook County, Oregon, where she saw many students apply to colleges where they had participated in tournaments.

“We definitely have those kinds of ambitious kids here, too,” she said.

Last year, the GCHS team attended a debate tournament at Stanford University in California – which was “an amazing experience,” Wainer said.

Wainer said he’s considering becoming a lawyer, due to his experience on the debate team.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids go on to pursue law, or criminal justice,” Strecker said. “It’s a way to get kids interested in politics.”

Currently, the debate team meets after school, but starting next trimester, on Monday, Nov. 14, debate will be an elective that students can take for credit. The class is open to all grades.

“We have a lot of freshman students who are interested who will be a powerhouse in a couple of years,” Strecker said.

Involving the students in the league’s program is an attempt to reach out to a diverse audience, Brown said.

Other topics that the league has presented in the past include affordable housing, prison relocation and school performance.

“We try to present all sides although we do take a position ultimately,” Brown said.

The league generally meets on the second Monday of the month at 5:15 p.m., with no meeting in December. Meetings are open to the public and typically held at the Grand County Public Library, 257 E. Center St. – although this month’s mock congress meeting will take place at the MARC.

High school students think on their feet at Nov. 14 mock congress

What: Mock congressional session debating the minimum wage

When: Monday, Nov. 14, at 5:15 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North

Information: 435-260-2373

Cost: Free; donations encouraged