Coming from the Lebanese public school system, University Scholarship Program students Aya Hammoudi, Ahmad Alayan, Hassan Al Hussainy, and Mohammed Ezzedine know all too well how it does not sufficiently build students’ critical thinking skills, observing that many of their peers often graduate with different inherited perspectives regarding history, beliefs, identity, and political affiliations. This, added to an attunement to the volatile political climate, and sectarian tensions, led them to seek a solution to the social and political divisions plaguing Lebanon. While reflecting on how best to address this issue, the team recollected the ubiquitous sectarian rhetoric that their peers in high school in Tyre commonly engaged in and saw in this situation a productive entry point for a Community Service Project, a Debate for Anti-Sectarianism.
The team directed their project towards equipping the upcoming generation of youth of Tyre with skillsets and logic that will enable them to engage and participate with others from various social and political spheres more productively. Taking COVID19 transmission into consideration, the CSP team designed and offered, over six days, a series of virtual workshop sessions covering various debate tools and tactics to twenty-four beneficiaries.
Upon the culmination of the project, evaluations indicated that all the participants were satisfied with the workshop sessions, demonstrating a greater acceptance of others’ opinions, an increased capacity to address controversial issues comfortably, as well as improved knowledge of debating skills. The team reported that working on the project enhanced their facilitation skills as trainers for students and improved their leadership and teamwork skills.