Humans of Harker: Megan Huynh debates for a cause


Melissa Kwan

“Yes, I want to achieve justice and equality in the world, why is that a bad thing?” Megan Huynh (12) said.

by Nina Gee, Reporter

Like many other Harker students, Megan Huynh (12) began her middle school career with a debate class and a hatred of public speaking.

“My mom forced me to take the class,” Megan said. “I was really nervous about it because I was super shy and I hated public speaking and I dreaded it absolutely. It was the worst.”

Seven years later, she’s now a captain of her debate team and thriving in her environment. She’s met like-minded debaters from all over the US, travelling to tournaments and overnight camps.

“Debate helped me become more confident,” she said. “When I was in middle school, I was super shy, but debate gave me the self-assurance I needed to open up more and meet new people.”

Jenny Achten, Megan’s debate coach, appreciates Megan’s levelheaded perspective.

“She has a really strong temperament,” Achten said. “A lot of it is just times when the team is hanging out, and Megan is just clearly a leader of the team. She sort of takes the good and the bad in stride, which I think is fantastic. She tends to not get stressed out and instead just sort of thinks about moving on to the next thing and having a good attitude.”

As a policy debater, Megan loves researching the nuances of subjects that aren’t discussed in a normal classroom setting.

“I just really like learning for the sake of learning, and being able to create change or learn about ways that we could create change in the future,” she said. “Being able to think about how policies impact us, and what policy action we should take to improve the state of the community, that’s just super interesting.”

And judging from her student council involvement as ASB Treasurer, Megan walks the talk. From the revamped sophomore advisory bake sales to the record-breaking Winter Ball attendance last year, Megan has a proven track record of innovative ways to help the community. Her efforts rarely go unnoticed, especially to the people close to her.

“Megan’s determination is really cool to see in ASB or [in] student council,” her close friend Jenna Sanders (12) said. “I think that’s also a thing that she’s humble about, her involvement in that: She’s doing more than she’s supposed to but not because she’s being asked [to do it].”

Debate also provided a segue into another one of Megan’s interests: social justice.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, discrimination doesn’t really exist. Women are equal, people of color are equal,’” she said. “But obviously that’s not true. Debate has really gotten me into issues of social justice and equality, in that sense.”

Megan’s identity as a woman of color has shaped her experience in the debate world.

“In debate, I’m punished for being too confident,” she said. “It comes off as aggression, or anger, and people, are like, ‘Calm down.’ People try to speak over me in my speeches, or when they ask me questions, and stuff like that. There’s still a disparity of women in academia, because it’s still seen as a predominantly male space. Female voices are still limited both in and out of learning areas, I guess. Yes, I want to achieve justice and equality in the world, why is that a bad thing?”

In the future, Megan hopes to combine medicine and political science into a career as a surgeon general, so she can shape health policy. As a correspondent for the We the Ppl, a politics podcast made by and for high schoolers, Megan has found a platform to share her opinion. In June, she covered a Planned Parenthood rally for the podcast.

“I just wish people were more informed about what they do [and] the issues that are currently going on,” she said. “A lot of people my age, in high school, aren’t super politically aware or care that much, but I think it’s super important to pay attention [and to] be aware of what’s going on in current events, because that can directly impact you.”