Mr. Abelkop is the debate coach for Chattahoochee. He is also an alumnus of the school.
Speculator(S): When did you graduate?
Abelkop(A): I graduated in the 2004-2005 school year. That would be about ten years ago.
S: Did you participate in any sports or clubs?
A: Debate. That’s about it. I started off as both a student in marching band and debate, and after the first semester I chose to focus solely on debate.
S: Were you able to balance debate with your school work?
A: Yeah, I actually was pretty good at that. It is something that poses a challenge to a lot of students that do debate. They have a hard time balancing the amount of work debate takes with the amount of work that their classes take, especially since most of the debaters are in honors and AP classes. I never found it too difficult. I was a fairly organized person, so I just kept to-do lists. Teachers were very flexible with assignments—if I was out for a debate tournament they would allow me that time to make it up.
S: Any memories at Chattahoochee?
A: I remember debate tournaments and the debate team back then. The debate team used to be in F122. I also remember Ms. Cooney’s lit class. It’s sort of a funny thing because a lot of teachers that taught me are still teaching here. I had Ms. Cooney, Ms. Hunt, Ms. Engelberth, Ms. McMillan, Ms. Nevins… there’s a good seven or eight teachers that taught me that are still teaching here now. And the majority of them remember me. It’s weird, going from being their student to now being their colleague. But it’s fun too.
S: Any struggles in high school?
A: I struggled a lot through high school figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I think that’s the biggest question mark that hangs over every high schooler’s head. The next few years after high school are going to determine the future path that you take, and making sure that you make a decision that you can live with and that you’re happy with is hard. And I definitely could have gone down a few different paths. It’s interesting to think about where I would be today if I had taken one of those paths. I applied to a whole lot of colleges, and some of them had debate programs and were very debate-focused, while other schools weren’t. It would have been interesting if I had chosen to go to a school and not debated in college, and focused more on college life. Debate takes a lot of time—the traveling, the preparations…you have to do so much research and be prepared to argue every possible contingency related to the topic, so work never ends. It’s constant work, and so because of that, for high school and college, you don’t have much else. You have your school life, you have your debate life, a little bit of a social life, and that’s it. It just takes up so much time. And the same is true for college. I have no idea what my life would have been like had I not done debate in high school or had I not done debate in college.
S: What was your major in college?
A: I majored in international relations. It’s a great field. It’s all about the way countries interact with each other in the international system, and that’s very much related to debate because a lot of the topics we argue about are related to domestic and foreign policies that deal with how countries interact.
S: You probably could have gotten a different career, although you didn’t exactly do that.
A: Yeah, I was thinking about that for a long time, and was thinking about it even after college. Because I majored in international relations I considered going into D.C.—think tank politics—to some degree. I actually have a lot of friends that have gone down that path. My debate partner at Chattahoochee is a fellow at the Center for Strategic International Studies and he’s writing all about U.S nuclear policy. That was a path that I definitely thought about going down. Ultimately, I have no regrets. I’m very happy with where I’m at now, so we’ll see.