Large turnout for DDF, but still room for more

If the first week of school offers any clues, it’s going to be a busy year for Homer High School’s Drama, Debate and Forensics team.

“We had 16 new students, on top of a possible 20 from previous years. … And we’re open to anyone else who might still want to join,” said Homer High School Head Coach Amy Johnson.

Formerly Amy Christianson, Johnson married Ben Johnson over the summer. 

With 15 different events offered — seven drama, five forensics and three different types of debate — DDF “helps students to build confidence in public speaking, work on broadening their horizons through debate and forensics as they explore different moral and ethical issues, current events both in the United States and abroad, and government policies,” said Johnson, who is in her fourth year as head coach. She was assistant coach her first year at HHS.

When not coaching DDF, Johnson teaches high school jazz band, high school symphonic band, high school drama, seventh grade band and eighth grade band. She also plays percussion with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra.

Rather than just a high school activity, Johnson sees DDF as a long-term involvement.

“I want students to have an opportunity to express themselves and explore DDF as a way to further themselves after high school,” she said.

What Johnson looks for in a DDF team member is someone with an interest in or someone wanting to learn how to speak in front of others.

“They need to be willing to memorize their pieces since very few things allow reading from scripts,” said Johnson. 

Add to that a willingness to have lots of fun and push the boundaries of what they’ve done in the past and you have the right stuff to be a DDFer, with an emphasis on having fun and a commitment to work on what needs to be worked on.

The cost to participate each year is $150, with an additional fee if hotel overnights are needed for any of the five tournaments in Anchorage.

“We offset a lot of the costs with our big fundraiser, Random Acts of DDF, and through some funding from the school district,” said Johnson.

Anyone new to DDF gets the benefit of those who have gone before.

“We don’t have any official mentoring program, but we have students who have participated in specific events in the past talk about their experiences and sometimes even perform events from previous years so that new students can see what good pieces look like,” said Johnson. “Debaters also work together a lot, helping to edit each other’s cases and build up their cases.”

Johnson’s goal for the 2013-2014 school year is to have 10 students make it to finals at the state tournament, as well as offering competition opportunities to as many students as are interested. The largest group of Homer High students participating in a tournament last year was 26.

“We’re lucky that the only time we have a limit of students is at the state tournament,” said Johnson. “For the other Anchorage tournaments, we can bring as many as we can fit on a bus. 

Homer students compete against all Anchorage schools, and, when a student’s DDF days at Homer High are a thing of the past, many “then go out and succeed on college debate teams and college acting performances,” said Johnson.

It isn’t too late to get involved. Anyone interested can contact Johnson at Homer High School.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at