Palmetto High School senior Zach Cosner is the school’s Silver Knight nominee in the category of Speech and Debate. Cosner has been on the school’s debate team for four years. His area of specialization is policy debate.
Each year, policy debate teams are given one general issue to research for the competitions. This year’s issue is public transportation. Last year it was space and the year before it was the military, covering such issues as troop placement in various countries. In his freshman year, the topic was social services.
The biggest competition so far in the 2012- 13 school year was at the University of Florida. Cosner says he is happy with his showing at that event; he was working with a new partner and it was only her second competition.
“I enjoy it, it can be fairly exhausting and can produce a lot of anxiety when you are in a round, but it’s enjoyable and educational,” Cosner says. “You learn a lot about the topic that is at hand.”
Cosner also competes in Model United Nations. He is the vice president of Palmetto’s Model UN club. Those competitions are quite different from debate, not only in the topics chosen but in format. “I very much enjoy that too,” he says. “It’s easier than debate, but more fun as a competition. Generally you need to be able to influence people and have your voice heard. It’s good for understanding a multilateral point of view.”
Cosner says Model UN format is more of an individual competition. “Each time I’ve gone, I’ve gotten honorable mention, which is equivalent to third place, or outstanding delegate, which is equivalent to second place,” he says. Cosner is a competitive guy. Not only does he participate in debate and Model UN, he also competes in the History Bowl and Envirothon.
Envirothon is a good prep for his planned environmental science and policy major at the University of Miami. He plans to double major by adding biology to the mix.
His interest in the environment is borne out by his Eagle Scout project. He refurbished and beautified Camp Mahachee, a Girl Scout camp that his sister attended for many years.
“We built trashcan holders for the trash cans and built new benches and cubbies for the shower house,” he says. “We also mulched and beautified the camp grounds.”
One of the significant things accomplished by the scouts was removing invasive plants. “It’s a nice natural area and it’s historic,” Cosner says. “The conditions of the camp were not the greatest. The forests were eaten alive by kudzu.
It’s not easy to walk through it. The area we removed it from was the camp area.”
They could have done more, but the Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to come in and take care of the other areas.
Cosner did some fundraising to pay for the mulch and timber needed for the project, as well as the food for the volunteers. He says that he was able to get donations from the businesses where he bought the supplies, including Shell Lumber.
His involvement in scouting includes stints as the Senior Patrol Leader for Troop 457, which meets at the Kendall Methodist Church. The project was one of the reasons that he was chosen as a Silver Knight nominee.
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld