Luis Toro

Luis Toro

Finding a voice through debate

Oakton student body president Luis Toro found a way to express himself through competitive debate in high school.

“Growing up, I was very shy. People wrote me off to a certain point. They underestimated me. But then when I got to high school, I heard about the speech and debate team. I slowly but surely learned how to come into my own voice, and I learned different aspects of myself. I was never competitively successful in high school debate. But I stuck with it because I had encouragement from my coaches and teammates. I felt wanted in that space. I’ve been doing it for six years because I feel like I have a home in debate.”

Taking it to the next level

He has taken his first debate experiences in high school to the next level at Oakton. The debate team made it all the way to the 2022 national tournament in Washington D.C., where Luis advanced to stand among the top 16 teams in the country. 

“I do policy debate. You have a partner, and the rounds usually last for two hours; there are six rounds total. It’s a long process—it takes a lot out of you. We have to create a case for both the affirmative and the negative side of the topic. There are different types of frameworks for different topics. There are people who like to debate more critical topics like I do, which is more attuned to settler-colonialism and the discussion of race that’s embedded in the topic. Some are more into policy arguments—a utilitarian framework. The topic at my most recent debate was antitrust law. I was not familiar with the topic at all, but that’s the point of debate. They throw something at you and you have to learn about it and get an understanding of it fully so you’re able to debate about it and compete at a high level.”

Making a name for yourself

One of the things that makes community colleges such a good fit for many students is the small, tight-knit community where you can take chances to lead. Luis says it’s the perfect place to figure yourself out and make yourself known. 

“A community college is so small compared to a big university—there’s more of a sense that you can leave a mark here and do more. People know you in a substantial way. That’s a key aspect of going to college: that sense of community that makes you actually feel that you can succeed. I experienced being quiet in high school, so I wanted to do something different in college. I wanted to engage and move things forward. In high school I’d just let things come to me. But at Oakton, I want to put my name out there.”