Students Host Toronto-Danforth Candidates for a Local Debate
We all know that elections can be ugly, divisive and unpleasant, but the students at the Story Arts Centre refused to be negative. Instead, they used the election as an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in class.
On October 10, just over a month into their studies, students from journalism, public relations and broadcasting programs came together to tell the story of the election in our wider community of Toronto-Danforth. This took weeks of preparation by the students as well as support from Centennial’s faculty members to ensure that the event was a success.
By hosting the debate, these students kept the community of Toronto-Danforth informed on important issues as they head to the ballot box on Election Day. The result was hundreds of residents participating by either watching the debate at home on Facebook or coming to campus to watch in person.
The students used what they’ve been learning in class to organize everything including the logistics, the promotion of the event as well as candidate and media invitations.
Candidates who attended the debate represented the positions of the Animal Protection Party of Canada, the Communist Party, the Green Party, the NDP, the Liberal Party as well as an independent candidate John Kladitis. Unfortunately, the People’s Party and Conservative Party candidates were not able to attend and sent their regrets.
The debate was moderated by the producer of CBC’s “The Current” and Centennial College alumni, Samira Mohyeddin. Topics of the conversation touched on topics that impact our Toronto-Danforth community, but the topic of climate change was the main focus of the questions from social media and the crowd.
After the debate the conversation wasn’t focused on the quips from the candidates, instead, it was how impressive and professional the event was.
“It felt like I was walking into the federal leadership debate,” said NDP candidate Min Sook Lee, who has a background as a documentary filmmaker.
It seemed like the praise for the debate pushed through partisan boundaries.
“I thought it was a great experience. I liked the pacing, I liked the questions. Hats off to everyone” said Liberal candidate Julie Dabruisin, who was running in her second election.
It is easy to see why so many people were impressed with the debate. With the lights and cameras set-up, Centennial College students transformed a classroom into a fully functioning studio worthy of prime time.
But it wasn’t just a good experience for the candidates who debated that night. The experience allowed students to learn in a real-life environment where they could practice their soft skills like leadership and teambuilding.
“The experience of putting on the debate was incredible. It allowed me to learn from our teachers and peers in a real-life scenario, and I think that left a really big impact on me” said public relations student Kate Lynn Robles.
After speaking with students who helped organize the event it is clear that while there was a lot of good feedback from the night of the debate, the full benefits have yet to be realized.
“Since the debate, we now say ‘hi’ to each other in the hall even if we don’t have a class in common,” said public relations student Mubashira Farooqi.
This could be the best result of all: Story Arts Centre students bonding after a successful event. While it might not seem like a big deal on the surface, it will make it much easier for students to work together on great events like this in the future.
By Andrew Rudyk, Public Relations - Corporate Communications Student