A high school senior with 10-plus years of computer programming experience - starting in second grade - still credits much of his success to the non-technical skills he has developed through the traditional world of debate. Evan Voogd’s achievements have earned him recognition as Student of the Year by the Norwalk Area Chamber of Commerce at its 27th Annual Awards Celebration on January 24.
Evan, who will graduate from Norwalk High School in May, began coding as early as age 7 using MIT Scratch, a free program language and online community where kids of all ages can code and create interactive stories, games and animations.
But it was only three years ago, as a high school sophomore, that Evan discovered debate where his skills have helped the Norwalk team achieve state, district and conference honors.
“The advice I’d give to students – and anyone – is that it’s never too late to try something different,” he says. Following his own advice, he did not get involved in Norwalk High’s Student Council until his junior year and is now student body vice president as a senior.
As a sophomore, he explored debate and got involved on the team as well as in large group speech competitions and NHS theatre. High school debaters develop strong oral and written communication skills, critical thinking, research and problem-solving strategies and strengths in public speaking and presentations.
Now as a senior and captain of the debate team, Evan works to help novice debaters develop skills and in September conceived and organized a first-time debate camp for Norwalk High students. “Through general sessions and breakout sessions over several days, we helped them learn how to write case studies, present their arguments and analyze the results,” he says.
Since the debate season began with the year’s topics announced by the National Speech and Debate Association, Evan and his debate partner Joseph Puente have been busy competing in weekend debate tournament among larger schools in Iowa, something Norwalk High debaters have not done in the past. “That’s been most rewarding, winning first place in a tournament at Roosevelt High School and getting a second place in Bettendorf, both against very large schools,” he says.
Large group speech competitions have enabled Evan to show another talent: improvisation and ensemble acting. “In improvisation competition, we are teams of three students who draw three props from a box and we quickly have to create a skit using the props,” he explains, noting students often get ideas from the improv-themed television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
Evan Voogd/P 2
Those competitions are the lighter side of his approach to his education. He has a goal of completing two advanced placement courses each semester through Norwalk High’s relationship with Des Moines Area Community College and expects to graduate with at least 20
AP courses completed. Currently still involved in the college search, Evan plans a major in computer science.
Evan also finds time for NHS show choir where he is a bass in Sound Revolution and in theatre where he’ll be a part of the spring play. “I do a lot of activities and handle a challenging schedule and I try to do both well,” he says, noting that his commitment is a tribute to a late grandfather, a small business owner, whom he considers to be a role model.
Supporting his activities are parents are his dad Scott, a science teacher at Valley High School, and mom Darcy who also are busy with brother Aidan, an NHS sophomore, and sister Zoe, a fourth grader at Lakewood School. “My parents have been tremendous support and encouragers of everything I’ve done from my basic computer coding as a grade schooler to standing on stage at a big debate tournament. It’s their support that has enabled me to achieve this recognition from the Norwalk Area Chamber.”