Debate gives Dallas ISD student life-changing summer, new goals

Joshua Deandra's life-changing summer gave him new goals. Carla Wade reports.

DALLAS – School starts on Monday, and and many teachers will ask students what they did over the summer.

For one North Texas high school student, the answer will be that he changed his life.

When school closed for summer break, Joshua Deanda's entire world opened up. And what he did this summer helped bring his future in to focus.

"Especially what I love about debate is it doesn't close my doors," Deanda said.

Deanda is one of the top debaters on the A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School team. That distinction got him into the prestigious Cal National Debate Institute in Berkeley, California.

When he filled out the application, he never dreamed that he would be accepted into the intense program.

"When I actually got in, that was crazy! I didn't think I was going to go because of the cost," Deanda said. "The cost was insane."

The cost was $2,000, but with a GoFundMe page and help from the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance, he was able to afford it. He made a video to document his first time leaving Texas, getting on an airplane, and arriving in California.

"I can easily say this is the best summer I ever had in my entire life," he said.

But summers weren't always so good for Deanda.

"I've had kind of a bumpy road," he said. "It hasn't always been like this."

He slacked off in middle school, but the fear of not going to college turned him around.

"I kind of told myself I don't want to do that. I want to do well," Deanda said. "I want to better myself."

This summer, three weeks at debate camp wasn't enough. There was also math camp and an internship at a tech company. His goal now is to win debate nationals, graduate, and attend Harvard University.

Deanda's debate coach, Wendy Jackson, said he is enthusiastic about learning and has been a great addition to the team.

"This validates everything," Jackson said. "This lets me know that I'm doing the right thing. It is so rewarding and I'm so happy that I could be a part of his path to greatness."

It's a path that Deanda only began to walk when he realized he wanted a life with endless possibilities.

"I kind of had to tell myself that I do enjoy learning," Deanda said, "and when you start telling yourself to do something, you become that. You do enjoy learning."

He realized he wanted a life without closed doors.


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