Attending NSD for three summers was one of the best decisions I made in high school. It did so much for my competitive success in debate, but it also dramatically improved my critical thinking skills both inside and outside of debate rounds. I knew nothing about philosophy when I first came to NSD, but my lab leaders' enthusiasm about it was contagious and they made even the most complicated theories seem simple.
One of my favorite projects at camp was one on radical democracy. That project not only influenced my arguments in debate rounds, but also completely changed the way I thought about a book I read in English class. I wrote my English paper on that book through the lens of radical democratic theory and quoted the readings I did at camp. I think I learned as much in three weeks of NSD as I would in a full-year course at school.
All this learning took place in such a genuinely fun environment that I was always sad to leave camp at the end of each session. One of my favorite parts of NSD was the people: my fellow campers were some of the nicest and most interesting people I've ever met, and I found the camp atmosphere more collaborative than competitive. My lab leaders always believed in my potential to be a great debater even when I didn't myself. They also made an effort to organize lots of games and lab dinners so that camp didn't get too stressful. I hope that when I return to NSD to teach this summer, I can help the campers feel as supported and happy as I felt.