Updated: Jul 29, 2021
We had the opportunity of interviewing Luke Drago, a student at Oxford University, about: Extracurriculars
In high school, Luke was the Public Forum Debate captain, an octofinalist at the 2019 NCFL National Debate Tournament, a three-time national qualifier in the National History Day documentary competition (and three-time finalist in the local and state National History Day documentary competition), a strategy intern for the McCool for Matthews campaign, the co-founder of his school's social justice club. Luke also scored a 32 on his ACT and has over 2000 hours volunteered at his local church.
Key points Luke shares:
Thanks to debate, I know how to take in-depth notes from those sources, compile my notes into subjects, and present a case that I believe best presents my position on a topic. These are skills that I’ll use for the rest of my life in any job I have.
If it’s what you love, don’t give up on it. You’ll know you love it when you spend your free time thinking about it. If it keeps you up at night and finds a way to come into nearly every conversation you have, you’ve found your passion.
Q: You were heavily involved in Speech & Debate, can you explain when you found your passion for it?
A: I like researching a topic, forming my position, and having it tested in debates. I learn best when I’m challenged by someone with an opposing viewpoint because it makes me learn new information and adapt my position accordingly. For those reasons, Speech & Debate was a natural fit for me.
Q: How much time did you dedicate to it each week?
A: At peak, I probably dedicated around 15-25 hours a week. When I was team captain, a lot of that time was dedicated to coordinating practices, researching the topic, helping our novice and JV competitors, and organizing our workflow. In general, I spent a lot of time writing my cases, putting together blockfiles, and competing in near-weekly tournaments that went on for hours. A lot of times we had competitions that required us to get on a plane or hop on a bus and head to a far-away tournament. It was a big time-sink, but I don’t regret a minute I spent doing it.
Q: Did your involvement ever overlap with school, if so, how did you use it to your advantage?
A: I did my junior research paper on a topic I spent two months debating in public forum debate and a competition debating in congressional debate. Thanks to that, I already knew the strengths and weaknesses of a bunch of arguments on the topic. I was incredibly well-prepared for that paper.
Q: How do you think Speech & Debate will benefit you in college and beyond?
A: Debate is already benefiting me in college. For my weekly essays, I’m typically sent a broad question and a reading list that consists of a large amount of books, research papers, and articles on a topic. Thanks to debate, I know how to take in-depth notes from those sources, compile my notes into subjects, and present a case that I believe best presents my position on a topic. These are skills that I’ll use for the rest of my life in any job I have.
Q: Was there anything you had to sacrifice for Speech & Debate?
A: Saturday. I had already given up Sundays to volunteer with my church. We had a tournament almost every Saturday during the season, with most competitions occurring from November to April. During that time, I rarely had a free Saturday.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone doubting if their passion will get them anywhere, worth the time and trouble, or if it truly is what they love (or they should keep searching)?
A: If it’s what you love, don’t give up on it. You’ll know you love it when you spend your free time thinking about it. If it keeps you up at night and finds a way to come into nearly every conversation you have, you’ve found your passion. Don’t sacrifice it for anything. I didn’t think an elementary school love of current events would translate to anything, but now I’m studying politics at one of the best schools in the world. Whether it’s drama, art, football, soccer, photography, debate, music, or anything else, don’t give up on your dreams just because you can’t clearly see the endgame. The purpose of your passion will find you.
Q: How did you figure out/what process did you take to figure out where your passion and interests were?
A: I loved current events since I was a little kid—I think it started around fifth grade. So I guess I always knew I was passionate about politics. I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. I just knew.
Q: Could you explain in your own words what the National History Day documentary competition was?
A: The National History Day documentary competition is a yearly series of competition at the county, state, and national level. In it, participants create a ten minute documentary based on a yearly theme and present it to a panel of judges. The top three documentaries at the county level go to the state competition and the top two documentaries at the state level go to the national competition.
Q: Going off of the previous question, how did you find this opportunity and why did you enjoy it so much?
A: My 8th grade social studies teacher introduced us to the competition. A few of my friends and I paired up to compete. That year, we didn’t do too well. The next year, however, we made it to the national competition. We went on to qualify for two more national competitions. I loved it because I got to work with a team made up of people that I had known since middle school to create a product that took a ton of work. We were always proud of what we were able to accomplish. In our junior year, we did our documentary on the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage. In the course of our research, we were able to interview Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case. Those opportunities are once-in-a-lifetime, and I wouldn’t have been able to have them without NHD.
Q: Who do you think this competition would suit well?
A: If you love history and either know how to edit video or know someone who does, you’d love NHD. It’s a huge time commitment and can take months for your work to materialize, but it’s worth it.
Q: 2000 volunteer hours. Can you explain what you did and when you did it? (school year, summer, weekends, etc.)
A: Most of my volunteer hours come from my experience as a volunteer lighting director at my church. I volunteered 8-10 hours there almost every weekend throughout the year, which meant that I was at every service we offered. I also spent a few hours programming the lights for the services during the week. On top of that, I was in charge of coordinating any set changes we had, which could take up to a week and occurred two or three times a year.
Q: What made you so passionate about this volunteer experience?
A: There aren’t a lot of opportunities to learn how to operate lights in a concert-grade facility. I was so passionate because I wanted my work to reflect my effort. I spent countless hours putting together a single cue for a song because I knew it could be better. I learned skills there that I would never have otherwise been able to master.
Q: How did you find this opportunity?
A: I had been a production volunteer for a few months and wanted more responsibility. Programming can take dozens of hours to learn and hundreds of hours to master, so they can’t train everyone who asks. They need to know that someone will stick with it. I kept bugging my church’s lighting director until they let me program, and proved to them that I could be consistent.
Q: As the cofounder of your school’s social justice club, can you explain what led you to found it?
A: Following a tense election, I wanted to help educate my peers about the issues of justice that face our country. I also wanted to create a space where students could grapple with these issues and discover how they permeated their own life. A friend approached me with the idea to form a social justice club, and I immediately jumped in.
Q: What impact were you able to make?
A: We regularly filled a classroom with students from a variety of backgrounds. I did my best to explain the historical causes of social issues we face today and how they can affect our daily lives. More importantly, I learned a lot from my fellow students. Hearing their stories helped me understand how these issues affect them personally. We all grew together.
Q: I’m sure many people find it hard to believe you managed so many things at once; how did you find a balance/how did you find your limit?
A: I’m not sure if I ever found my limit as much as I found out how much time was in a day. There’s only so much you can do in 24 hours. When one opportunity faded from my life, I found another one that would help me grow. I was always engaged in this cycle of opportunity. I was always searching for ways to grow further in what I was doing and find new things to do when my time was up with an activity. I was careful not to overload myself, but I never stopped looking for new chances to learn and grow.
Connect with Luke on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/mwlite/in/luke-drago-89a5a7b0.