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Debater
Season 8 E 22 • 03/08/2008
Make a donation to Ridgefield High School in Aja's memory. Make checks payable to: "Aja Leigh Gerrity Memorial Scholarship" and send to:
Aja Leigh Gerrity Memorial Scholarship P.O. Box 1002 Ridgefield, WA 98642
Ph:(360) 619-1300

Aja, a varsity cheerleader, is an outgoing redhead who is as popular as she is energetic. But despite her social status, this feisty junior at Washington's Ridgefield High School has more than her fair share of awkward moments, leaving her with a reputation for being ditzy. Aja's tired of people not taking her seriously, which is why she wants to be MADE into a great debater.

Unfortunately for Aja, she doesn't know the meaning of the word "articulate." So, when she reveals her goal of joining the speech and debate team to her friends and family, they are not exactly enthusiastic. Disappointed by the lack of support, Aja calls her dad, who is a military man stationed in Korea. Even though he's thousands of miles away, he's behind his daughter 100%.

On a typical rainy day in Ridgefield, Wash., Aja finds a note taped to her locker. It's from her MADE coach, nationally ranked debate champ Jeff, who challenges her to give a speech to the cheerleading squad that afternoon. After spying on her lackluster effort, Jeff informs Aja of what he has in store for her over the next eight weeks. After (hopefully) being transformed into a great debater, she'll compete in a competition with students from over 40 schools.

Wasting no time, Jeff gives Aja a current-events quiz that she completely bombs. Her poor performance notwithstanding, MADE coach Jeff gives Aja another assignment: join the debate team and give a speech on why she should be taken seriously. Aja completes her task, but the result is a sea of "likes" and "ums." Despite her shaky start, Aja is asked to prepare an interpretive reading of a Walt Whitman poem for the next team meeting.

The following day, Jeff decides it's time to start curbing Aja's nasty "like" habit. His method: the "Like Jar." Every time Aja uses a filler word, she's got to pay up 25 cents. Sounds like a simple deterrent, but when Jeff comes to check her progress at the end of the day, he's disappointed to find quite a few quarters in the jar. Questioning her resolve, Jeff asks Aja to miss cheerleading practice the next day so he can work with her.

Aja's teammates aren't pleased that she's putting debate first, but Aja has other concerns, like making sure her Walt Whitman poetry assignment is a success. Her reading in front of the debate team seems heartfelt, but she admits afterwards that the emotion in her voice actually came from being on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

Overwhelmed, Aja calls her father looking for a confidence boost. She'll need it, too, because MADE coach Jeff has pitted Aja against fellow cheerleader Kristen in her first full-blown debate. She loses the match but learns an important lesson about not getting angry during an argument. Hoping to put that lesson to good use, Aja partners up with debate team member Chris for the big tournament.

Later that week, Aja gets some bad news: she's failing math! And if she fails a class, she won't be allowed to participate in either cheerleading or debating. It looks like Aja may have to ditch one of her activities so she can find time to study. But first, she's got to pack because she's heading to Korea to spend time with dad. Little does she know, Jeff's got a few assignments in mind for his traveling protégé.

After visiting with her dad, Aja takes a trip to Seoul, where she meets Tyler, winner of The Amazing Race and her overseas MADE coach. Tyler immediately gets to work, forcing Aja to tackle the language barrier by ordering food via body language and drawing. The next day, he sends her out alone into the heart of the foreign city. After navigating the tramway and haggling in a fish market, Aja returns to Washington with newfound confidence.

Back at school, Aja discovers that her math grade is back on track and turns her focus to debate. She works with Chris every day during lunch, and when she's placed in an impromptu debate, she does a great job! But just as the dynamic duo was really starting to cook, a conflicting schedule sidelines Chris for the big debate, forcing Aja to find a new partner. Ack! Luckily, Nick, Ridgefield High School's best debater, agrees to step in.

The day before the big competition, Aja starts to get nervous. This time, however, her friends and family are there for her, offering words of encouragement. MADE coach Jeff even says that no matter what happens he's proud of what she's accomplished.

The competition gets underway, and Aja hits the ground running. She's really holding her own amongst the seasoned veterans, and the team storms through the first four rounds. But in the fifth and final round, Aja struggles to maintain her composure against a particularly frustrating opponent. The match is too close for Jeff to guess the winner, so everyone has to wait for the results to be revealed the next day.

When the winners are announced, Aja is thrilled to find out that she and Nick placed third overall in public forum debate. The rest of the team is excited, too. Not only do they have a new huge trophy, but a new strong teammate as well. Looks like Aja has become so much more than a flighty cheerleader; she has been MADE into a great debater who commands respect.