Mr. Abelkop is the debate coach for Chattahoochee. He is also an alumnus of the school.
Speculator(S): Did you ever feel overwhelmed about choosing a college?
Abelkop(A): Yeah. I hate that feeling when you don’t know what you are going to do next year. You could be anywhere, basically. It’s like when you go through school your entire life, you know that next year is 9th grade, the year after is 10th grade… your know what to do the next year. And even once you’re in college you know you’ll be in college for four years. But those moments at the end of high school and at the end of college, when you don’t know where you are going to be and what you will be doing, I hated that uncertainty and pressure. And so it was overwhelming, to a large degree, making that choice and deciding what the next year would entail.
S: Any advice for seniors?
A: Join the debate team! Being a senior is tough because you’ve spent the last four years engaging in choosing which classes you’re going to take, and the activities you’re going to be involved in, and getting a résumé that hopefully will get you wherever it is that you want to go next year. So, it’s tough to give advice to people that are at the end of their high school journey. You’ve already made your decisions, you’re pretty much done with high school. My advice for those people is to continue to work hard. One of the biggest lessons debate taught me as a student is that you get out of debate what you put into it. I think that’s not just true for debate, but is true in so many other things in life. And, never give up on your goals. Figure out a way to make it happen—just work, work, work until it happens. it’s easy to fear the unknown, but life’s not supposed to be easy, and part of those choices are taking a leap of faith, working hard and keeping your mind in the right place. But I think that more useful advice would be for freshmen, because they still have four years of high school to make those choices, and for them I say join the debate team.
S: What would you say to seniors that don’t exactly know which direction they’re heading in?
A: I was in that spot. I really wanted to continue with debate as an activity that I wanted to participate in but I didn’t know what I wanted to do after that. I didn’t know that I wanted to teach debate or be a debate coach. It’s tough because there are so many professional schools. You can go to med school and be a doctor, you can go to law school and be a lawyer, or you can go to business school and be a businessman. But, the degree that I chose—international relations—and others in the social sciences are not links to a direct profession. It’s not like you go to school here and you immediately get a job doing this, like med school, law school or business school. And so, I’ve found myself certainly in a quandary a little bit, trying to think about what direction to take with my life. And it’s in that moment where you ask yourself what you value the most in life, whether it’s a huge paycheck or impacting the next generation of youth. And, there’s no one right answer for everyone. It’s just a matter of self-discovery and figuring out what path you want to go down. But no matter what college you go to or what degree program you choose, there’s going to be a whole host of people along the way that help guide you to make the right choices and to realize there are doors that are left open in front of you.