Palm Beach State College students take center stage at U.S. Senate Debate
PBSC students played a leading role in the Decision 2022: Before You Vote U.S. Senate debate between incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Val Demings, hosted by Palm Beach State College at the Duncan Theatre on the Lake Worth campus.
In the days leading up to the Oct. 18 debate and at the debate itself, students participated in class discussions and volunteered at the event. A group of students attended the live debate, and others were able to see it at a watch party on campus.
Every step of the way, the students showed they were engaged in learning about the candidates and the issues at stake.
“PBSC holding this debate and the opportunity I had to watch it on campus will absolutely stand out for me when I look back at my college experience,” said Janya O’Meara, a first-year student pursuing an Associate in Arts degree. “It allowed me to witness history.”
In his Introduction to American Government class, Associate Professor Phillip Mancusi focused on concepts like civil discourse, to help students analyze what they would hear in the debate. His class was featured on WPBF 25 News, where he spoke to reporter Jade Jarvis, who produced two stories following the students from the class to the watch party.
“Civil discourse is incredibly important,” said Mancusi. “Just because somebody believes something different than you, it doesn’t make you right and it doesn’t make you wrong. It’s important to be able to have those conversations with somebody about those differences.”
Students who attended the watch party put this lesson in civil discourse into practice by sharing varying viewpoints.
“I thought the debate was very interesting in terms of the topics that were brought up,” said Christiano Garcia, an A.A. student studying communications and media. “Val Demings really went for the jugular to get her points across, and Marco Rubio definitely had some things to get off his chest. I’m still going to do more research, but moment, I could be swayed either way. It really depends on how much they can stand up to their word and show us why they want this office.”
Alexandria Thomas, who is working toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services, thought the candidates conquered a lot of concrete issues such as gun control, but would have liked to hear more about prison reform and mental health.
“This was my first Senate debate, so I was not prepared for all of the emotion that came with it,” Thomas said. “I took debate in high school and expected the rebuttals to be more about getting to the root of the issue, rather than what the other person does or does not do. I felt like they did a lot of arguing, a lot of standing up for themselves and a lot of jabbing. It would have been nice to get more of what they plan to do.”
The debate helped students gain insights into the candidates’ positions, but they also benefited from talking with each other.
“It was awesome being there with people who also go to Palm Beach State,” Garcia said. “Some students were excited, some were a little on the fence, but having that broad spectrum of thought regarding the debate was just amazing, and I loved every moment of it.”
“Watching it with other students made me feel a sense of togetherness,” Thomas said. “I know a lot of us feel the same way about certain subjects. We were listening to be prepared enough so that when we vote, we vote to make the changes that we actually want.”
As told to WPBF’s Jarvis by Jackie Pecker, a PBSC Honors College student and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society member, “I just feel even more ready to vote and having the debate on our actual campus here just heightens that energy. It was great to watch along with other students and have conversations that also influence my vote.”
Jarvis came away from her reporting very impressed by the students.
“They had some really thoughtful answers to the questions that I asked them about the debate and also their own personal views,” Jarvis said. “All of those students I spoke with are very passionate about politics and of course, now very energized to head to the polls on Election Day.”