In January, 34 students from 17 schools, along with their parents and coaches, attended the first-ever Florida Civics and Debate Initiative (FCDI) Day at the Capitol.
To kick off the day, the students were welcomed into the House Chamber by Chair Chris Latvala where they participated in a mock session. This provided the students with the opportunity to learn about how the State Legislators introduce bills, debate and vote on the floor by participating in an imitated version of House and Senate sessions. The students were thrilled when Representative Randy Fine joined them and surprised them with a visit.
After their mock session, the students and parents had the opportunity to meet briefly with their biggest champion, Governor Ron DeSantis.
They met with several Representatives and Senators from their districts to advocate for the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative and to inform them about the importance of Speech and Debate programs. They met with Representative Rizo, Representative Willhite, Representative Killebrew, Representative Aloupis, Representative Zika, Representative Busatta Cabrera, Senator Polsky and Senator Wright along with several of the Members’ staff. They discussed how Speech and Debate has impacted their lives and how it has helped them find confidence in what their future will look like.
After the productive conversations that they had with State Legislators, the students toured the Florida Supreme Court and participated in a Q &A Justice John Couriel through zoom, where they learned all about what a Justice does. Two of the students attending also realized that they attended the same high school as Justice Couriel!
The students took a tour of the Historic Capitol and learned about the original capitol building and the history behind the Historic Capitol and the current Capitol. They learned about monumental moments that happened in Florida from the Bush V. Gore Presidential election to how the Civil Rights Movement impacted the state.
To finish up the day, they attended a real session of the Florida Senate and were recognized on the floor by Senator Manny Diaz.
The students felt like they were able to make an impact and with the legislators by expressing the importance of speech and debate. This experience was an important time for them, the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative and the State Legislators. They learned more about the importance of civics and the process of state legislators go through to create laws that are made in the state.
"My favorite part of the day was meeting with representatives because it was a very small group and easy to convey how much the program meant to us!" - FCDI student
"It was exhilarating...to watch of the teens interact, network and genuinely enjoy being with each other. The day was life-changing for these young adults, just as speech and debate have been." -FCDI parent