Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week everyone! Although we show appreciation for our volunteers throughout the year, we want to take this opportunity to extend our huge gratitude to all the people whose efforts and community care make our work at The Practice Space possible. Community members dedicate hours of time to make sure public speaking is accessible for everyone. From making delicious food for our events, to coaching, joining our Board, and spreading the word to ensure accessibility, our community contributes so much. Thank you for all that you do to support The Practice Space and our mission to build confidence and elevate underrepresented voices.
Today we want to highlight the work of one volunteer in particular, who has dedicated hundreds of hours to this work: Joel Jacobs. AnnMarie Baines, our Executive Director, shared the impact Joel has made on not just our organization, but the public speaking world as a whole.
I’ve known Joel since my very first year of coaching, back in 2001. We were both coaches for the El Cerrito High speech and debate team, and we continue to volunteer there now as well! Joel was there on the opening day of The Practice Space in May 2017 and we continue to collaborate on offerings for The Practice Space.
Joel has volunteered for The Practice Space since the beginning. Most notably, he’s run two summers (soon to be a third!) of debate camps, helping students learn argumentation and prepare for debate competitions. He also created our weekend “scrimmages”, where middle and high school students from around the Bay Area come to The Practice Space to do practice debates. For our new debate programs in schools that have not historically had access to debate, Joel has negotiated waivers to make it possible for these schools to attend as well as assisting with the tournament paperwork. Together, this amounts to hundreds of hours of completely volunteer work, on top of his day job as an attorney.
During a debate tournament I attended at Berkeley High back in February, I was struck by Joel’s impact on The Practice Space and on the speech and debate community in the Bay Area. Looking around the judges’ room, the parents leading the entire tournament were all parents who were trained by Joel at our weekend scrimmages. Looking at the student leaders helping run the tournament, all of them had participated in summer camps or scrimmages with Joel. Debaters competing at the tournament had also been coached by Joel. Joel’s devotion to debate has inspired so many students and families to be bitten by the debate bug and become as obsessed with the activity as we all are.
So, what do we appreciate about Joel? Amongst many things, his absolute devotion to the speech and debate community, his belief that anyone and everyone should be able to have access to high-quality public speaking education, and of course, his neon green Converse shoes.
In all seriousness, Joel is the perfect example of the kind of person you want around when you are in the early years of a small business. We appreciate his hard-working, roll-up-your-sleeves, matter-of-fact attitude to making things happen so that more students can participate in public speaking. He is integral to our programming and helps spread the word about The Practice Space to students and families. Thank you Joel!
As we move forward with planning for an uncertain summer, there’s one thing for sure: Joel will definitely be leading our debate camp in July and has committed to doing the program, even if it has to be moved online. He’s coached multiple tournament champions (including last year’s State Champions), so we encourage you to sign up soon to get to work with this incredible volunteer.
Interested in volunteering at The Practice Space?