TRURO - The CEC Cougars have made history.
For the past five years, four local students have been working together on the Truro Debate Team and for the first time in the school's history, all four students are representing the school and province at the national championship in Calgary in April, as well as the Oxford Cup (North American championship) in Manitoba in November.
"This is nice for me because I was in the (provincial) finals twice before and I lost twice before," said Sarah Millman, a Grade 11 student who worked with Brie Dukeshire in Grade 10 to capture the provincial title at the Nova Scotia Senior High Impromptu Debating Championships 2012 last weekend.
"It was really unexpected."
The team, with Millman, 16, and Dukeshire , 15, was in first place after the preliminary round, which saw four preliminary debates on two topics.
Teams were given an accumulative score for the preliminary rounds and the top two teams - CEC and Halifax Grammar School ‘A' - went head-to-head in the final in front of three judges.
"For me, it's not about winning the title," said Dukeshire. "It helps us start out the season strong. It really sets the tone for the rest of the season, or at least I hope it does."
Along with Millman and Dukeshire, CEC's ‘B' team of Rumana Rafiq and Leanna Langille, both 16-year-olds in Grade 11, will travel to the two competitions after finishing fourth in the provincial event.
"Because we've been working together for so long, we work well together," said Rafiq about being paired with Langille. "It was actually our first time together in a tournament. We were really comfortable with each other."
When it comes to debating, the teenagers need to stay globally aware all the time because they don't always know what the topic is, such as with the impromptu event.
"If current trends keep popping up in the news, then you have to be aware you may have a topic on it," said Dukeshire.
All four students have an interest in global issues, however, Langille and Rafiq said debating also helps them with other areas.
"It's really good preparation if you want to become a lawyer because you use some of those same skills," said Langille, who has that profession in mind.
"It also helps build confidence in public speaking - it's helped in a lot of other classes," added Rafiq.
Since the team has been together, they've had guidance from Lesley Fisher and Paul Millman.
"It's unprecedented that both teams are going to nationals and the North American championship," said Fisher. "It's a really big deal for this school."
Paul Millman echoed Fisher's comments, especially in part for a Colchester County school.
"There has been no tradition of debate here," he said, adding the team emerged when the students were in junior high school.
"We hadn't anticipated this turnout this year. We're now a year ahead of our plans. We hoped this would happen, but never believed it would be possible for this year."
For now, the debate team is looking into hosting a number of fundraisers to help get them to both the Oxford Cup next month and nationals next year.
"If these girls are going to keep this going, we need this next level," said Paul. "We want them to continue on into university because the skill set they have opens tremendous opportunities for them."