Micah Cook and Steaven McKnight perform their duo piece at the school this past spring. Dainean Teeluk, Kara Whitehead, McKnight and Cook are the four Skagway students who qualified for nationals.
PHOTO BY JEFF BRADY

By TOBEY SCHMIDT

REPORTER

After four students in Skagway’s Drama, Debate and Forensics team succeeded in qualifying for nationals, they had one more obstacle in their way before the School Board would make a decision to approve the student travel or not.

Since this year’s National Speech and Debate Association competition will be held in Birmingham, Alabama—one of the many cities that Alaska Airlines does not fly to—the cost of the trip about doubled.

The team estimated a bill of approximately $13,000 for the trip.

They were short by about $11,000.

DDF coach Jon Baldwin had heard there might have been discussion from the School Board about not approving the student travel because of the deficit in their account.

One night, the week before the board’s meeting, he took to social media. Baldwin also created a GoFundMe for his team, hoping they could at least raise $4,000 to show the School Board that they were trying.

“Seventy-two hours later we had raised $10,986,” he told the School Board at their meeting on May 30. “We already had about $2,200 plus in the DDF account, so that brought us up to $13,202.”

Baldwin said they actually have a positive amount of $131 and continue to receive donations, which they are now putting towards next year’s fund in the DDF account.

“I think that this just shows you how great of a city we live in, that people go out of their way to actually support students’ educations,” said Skagway teacher Kent Fielding, who is also a DDF coach.

Shortly after Baldwin created the GoFundMe, he said businesses around town were competing with each other to donate hundreds of dollars to the fund.

“I had one of the waitresses from the Red Onion, who had been a DDF student, hand me $200 in cash,” Baldwin said.

Of course, the School Board did approve the student travel for their competition.

Many of the School Board members were eager to congratulate the coaches and team.

“I really want to commend you guys for your resourcefulness in trying to acquire the funds that you need for this trip,” said Board Member Jaime Bricker. “And I would like to publicly say that every business, every individual in town, that has helped you get closer to your goal is really something — it’s really something special and I think I’m just really proud to be in Skagway.”

The nationals competition in June will have over 3,000 students competing, from cities all over the country.

“I think it really builds their performance and really pushes them to a level that they normally wouldn’t have been exposed to,” Baldwin said about sending the students to nationals.