There’s No Debate, They’re Champions: Jordan Wallace and Kayla Cao’s Debate History

By: Emma Nelson

Students Jordan Wallace and Kayla Cao are finishing up their senior year of debate with a bang, winning championships along with every other tournament this year.

When their coach, Shawn Rafferty, first saw them in a mini-debate he thought they might be alright, turns out they were beyond alright.

In their sophomore year, Wallace and Cao joined the debate team, after their mothers encouraged them to join. Wallace’s mother wanted her to join simply because she thought she would be good at it, while Cao joined to gain confidence and break away from her shyness. 

“We were both kinda shoved into it,” Wallace jokes. 

Wallace and Cao were paired together immediately. Little did Shawn Rafferty know, he had just created one of the best debate partners in Jenks history.

“I feel we fit together very well as partners,” Cao said.

Wallace and Cao have had many accomplishments and victorious moments throughout their years. For example last year at nationals it had to be done virtually due to Covid-19, making it them against the world without ever leaving the school.

“I knew when they had won, ’cause they would squeal with delight. They did a lot of that over the course of several days to get into the top 20 in the nation.” Shawn Rafferty said.  

As it is the last year of their high school career, these accomplishments mean so much more; still, they had plenty of accomplishments through the years. 

“We were distinct champions our first year, we got state runner-up last year, and this year, we were district champions, regional champions, and state champions, so we’ve had a really good run this year,” said Wallace,  “We have been together all three years, so it’s sad to let that go, but it’s also the best possible way, to have such a successful season.”

The Debate Team At State Championships

Through the years, Wallace and Cao have grown as debaters and as people; they both agreed that debate has helped them be more outgoing and improved their public speaking skills. Rafferty said he has seen them grow in talent and ability through their years. 

Rafferty is someone both of the girls really look up to. They explain that other schools even look up to him, and he has to help them with their teams as well as his own. 

“He’s like a second father to me; we spend hours and hours and hours together as a team on weekends at tournaments, so you grow really close. I think Rafferty has been the most important mentor in my life, not just in debate but in everything,” Wallace said.

Being a debate coach is incredibly time-consuming as Rafferty explains. Cao and Wallace also explained that he pays for many resources out of pocket and doesn’t get much help from the school. 

“I definitely look up to him because it’s a lot to handle as just one coach. Schools usually have multiple coaches for their debate teams, but it’s just him running it. It’s a very big job, and he does it very well,” Cao said. 

They explain how the community has welcomed them and become a place for them to thrive. They both express the intimidation they felt when joining debate and how it wasn’t as scary as they initially thought due to such a loving and open-minded community.

“Don’t be scared to join because everyone is in the same boat as you, and everyone just wants you to improve,” Cao says to students who may be hesitant to join. 

Overall their experience was a community that supported them and an incredible friendship that has formed as they finish their senior year together. 

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