Haines schoolHaines is hosting a regional Drama, Debate and Forensics competition this weekend with more than 50 students expected to attend. The event will feature acting and arguing on a variety of topics with the public encouraged to come and watch.

Teenagers can be challenging. How’s that for an understatement?  But adolescents who take part in DDF are definitely a different breed. So says Amanda Randles, who has coached DDF for three years.

“It’s learning how to talk to people in certain ways, it’s learning how to get your message across,” said Randles. “Teenagers are teenagers they have so much to say and are so full of ideas and ready to change the world and they don’t always know how to communicate that.”

Randles says DDF offers an outlet for teens to express themselves and is a big confidence booster during those often-awkward years.

“This really teaches them how to argue a point effectively. I always joke with parents ‘you know, I’m making your lives much harder.’”

Fifty-four teens are taking part in the tournament this weekend, a steep drop from last year when the Haines competition saw 82 students and the year before that when there were 120.

“The budgets throughout the area have been cut,” Randles said. “Juneau has no travel budget at all, so the kids have to pay their own way. Juneau-Douglas used to have three coaches, now they have one. There are a bunch of big changes happening throughout our region. We’re doing great, our school district has totally supported us, which is awesome. But the other districts are having issues.”

Sitka and Wrangell are not making the trip the Haines but Skagway will compete for the first time in a few years.

“That’s new. [Skagway] used to have a DDF program and didn’t for many years and started up again this year,” Randles said. “And what I love is that it’s being coached by one of their champs from Skagway School.”

The debate topic at the weekend competition is the Syrian refugee situation and whether countries should put the refugees’ needs above their own. Students will argue for or against, but they don’t know which until moments before they walk on stage. That means they have to be well-versed in both the pros and cons. It’s not easy, but Randles says, it makes these students effective competitors.

“In putting together arguments on both sides, they have to guess and see what the other teams are going to throw at them so they can respond to that.”

Randles says the Haines squad is good. They might be a little stronger in the drama department, but overall, they’re a force to be reckoned with on stage.

The public is encouraged to attend the events which start Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Haines School. The competition runs all day Saturday with the finals and awards slated for later in the afternoon.