This month’s profile features Branden Yeates, from Lakewood, CO. Branden graduated high school in 2014 and currently works in public accounting. He competed in Stoa from 2010 to2014 with the club SALT, attending NITOC each year and participating in a total of nine different events.
Before participating in Stoa’s inaugural competition season in 2010, Branden was already in love with speech and debate. His older brother, Callan, started competing when Branden was old enough to volunteer as a timer (and as a sidekick, he pointed out) at tournaments. Branden grew to love competitive forensics through those experiences and started competing in Duo and Team Policy with Callan in 2008.
Branden fondly recalls the warm welcome he received from Stoa the first year, saying “My memories are of a fourteen-year-old debater from a different state and league being welcomed in like a favored guest. My dad and I had a wonderful time: I had my cases eaten for lunch by the Californian talent, and I met several debaters there that are still my friends today.”
His favorite moment was a memorable awards ceremony with a teammate living (and competing) in a wheelchair: “One of my teammates, Josiah, had broken to finals in several of his events. At the awards ceremony, four of the SALT guys put on sunglasses, acted like his security detail, and lifted him in his wheelchair on and off the stage each time he crossed it. The audience shook the auditorium with their cheers for Josiah – it was simply incredible.” Branden still serves the Stoa community in various ways, having been involved for over a decade now. He does freelance speech and debate coaching and is a member of Stoa’s Debate Committee, focusing on Lincoln Douglas debate.
Branden now works in public accounting as an auditor. He has a heart for public policy, and, after several years of exploring potential options, landed on accounting, appreciating its foundational appeal when pursuing public policy. He currently focuses on opportunities in business and education.
Speech and debate had a huge impact on his career and education. First, it gave him an urgent sense of mission: “I can still hear Scott York’s ringing senior charge that we’re on a God-given mission to be Kingdom communicators, and I try to orient my life towards that Kingdom mission every day.” Second, he points out that speech and debate gave him a toolbox of career skills like public speaking, professional dress, analysis and critical thinking, case writing, and strong listening skills, saying, “Of all the activities I could have done during my middle and high school years I cannot think of any activity that would have prepared me for my career better than speech and debate in general and Stoa in particular.”
Branden is currently pursuing his license as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and is hoping to gain more experience as an auditor. As for the long term, he is looking into several options, including law school or graduate school. But for now, his mind is on the present. As he said: “I’m looking forward to finishing the CPA exam this year, and then never thinking about the CPA exam ever again.”
Appreciation for Stoa and the Stoa community is evident in Branden’s story. He sees Stoa as a solution to one of the most pressing educational challenges today, saying, “I would love to see Stoa step into the educational gap that is being created by coronavirus: the statistics I’ve been reading indicate that the homeschooling population in America (and the world) will jump by several orders of magnitude in the coming years, and these new homeschooling families need the help of the existing homeschooling community in this time of global crisis. If we can seize this moment to serve these new families and train new students, Stoa’s Kingdom impact could be multiplied exponentially for many years to come. Carpe diem, right?”
Branden urges alumni to live in light of Stoa’s mission to speak boldly and change the world for Christ and notes, “Stoa has a critical role to play in the lives of Christian homeschooling students, and we can help ensure that role is carried out by investing in the next generation of Stoa competitors.”