April 2nd, 2020
Greetings Stoa Family,
Perhaps our new word of the day should be “flexibility”. It has proven important to keep our eyes fixed on our Almighty LORD and be flexible and adaptable to an ever-changing environment. Flexibility comes with such amazing opportunities for learning! More folks are engaged in video conferencing and FaceTime. More are talking on their phones to hear loved ones’ voices rather than simply texting. More communication is taking place inside and outside the family so we can connect in some way since our time to be together in person is limited or non-existent. More opportunities to serve others are becoming apparent and now we have time to act on them.
We are committed to serving you, our Stoa members, in new and innovative ways so we can continue to focus on developing and enabling students to speak boldly and change the world for Christ. In the weeks and months ahead, we plan to do the following:
1) Roll out our new Apologetics questions and Mars Hill topics immediately after the spring vote concludes (traditionally announced at the end of each season).
2) Roll out debate resolutions immediately after the spring vote concludes (traditionally announced at the end of each season).
3) Profile Stoa seniors through the StoaByte and our YouTube channel.
4) Post the names of those who achieved the Founders Award to our website and mail out a special certificate to each recipient.
5) Develop a new virtual framework for Stoa Academy 2020.
We are excited about the opportunities ahead and ways we can serve and connect with each of you. We believe God’s best awaits us, and we cannot wait to see everything unfold through His guidance. How are you changing the world for Christ in your newfound time? Let us hear your stories, too!
Follow us on our Stoa website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and our new YouTube channel so you can stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in Stoa!
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
Praying for you all,
Greg DeJager, Stoa President
Angela Childress, Stoa Executive Director
March 19th, 2020
Stoa Board of Directors Update on COVID – 19 and the 2019-2020 Season
Our nation and our world are facing an event unprecedented in modern times. Much has happened since our communique on March 13th.
- The coronavirus is continuing to spread at a rapid rate in the U.S. and abroad.
- Multiple counties and cities have mandated shelter in place.
- Most schools and universities have closed for the remainder of the school year.
- On March 15th, the CDC recommended that gatherings be limited to no more than 50 for at least the next eight weeks.
- On March 16th, the White House recommended that gatherings be limited to no more than 10 for at least the next 15 days.
- For Stoa, many of the remaining local tournaments have been cancelled.
In this rapidly escalating COVID-19 environment, the Stoa Board and Executive Director have been wrestling with how best to serve our families and the Stoa mission while doing our part to contain the virus and protect our nation’s most vulnerable. For example, it is critical that our nation is able to “flatten the growth curve” so our healthcare providers are able to care for the inevitable severe illnesses. Stoa needs to do its part.
After much prayer, discussion and debate, and taking into consideration many members’ input, we have made some very difficult choices. We do not make these decisions based on fear. We make them based on faith that the Holy Spirit is guiding us, based on an abundance of caution, and based on our knowledge that our God is sovereign.
1. NITOC 2020 at Union University has been cancelled.
- While it is possible the contagion will be in decline by May, the White House coronavirus task force suggests otherwise.
- NITOC takes months to prepare and becomes increasingly difficult and expensive to cancel as time marches on. We believe now is the time to make this decision.
- The risk of gathering together and exposing several hundred high-risk Stoa members, leaders, and community judges is simply too high.
2. Stoa Academy this summer is changing format. We will host webinars instead of an in-person event.
- We are going virtual! We are excited to finally take the opportunity to expand the reach of the Academy by hosting webinars. Stay tuned for more details.
- An in-person Stoa Academy in July carries many of the same risks as NITOC.
Stoa Academy is a large expense for Stoa. We want to be good stewards in these uncertain times.
3. Online/virtual tournaments.
In light of the abrupt end to Stoa’s official tournament season, some members/clubs have begun to explore the option of hosting fully online tournaments. The board appreciates such initiative to give students additional opportunities this season to continue honing the skills that competitive speech and debate provides. However, this format of competition lacks the face-to-face communications and community building that are fundamental and very highly valued in traditional Stoa tournaments. Most importantly, it fails to meet several minimum standards required to generate green check-marks. Therefore, while we encourage you to explore all options to hone your speaking skills, these online tournaments will not be included on the Stoa tournament calendar, and online tournament results cannot be uploaded to Speechranks.
Every board member agrees that these decisions are the hardest we’ve ever made as Stoa leaders. Some of us wept as we cast our aye votes to cancel NITOC. We grieve with all of you, particularly to you, our graduating seniors. We know this impacts you the most.
Thankfully, God did not give us spirits of fear, but of power, love and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). So despite this significant setback and trial, we can and will move forward and strive to grow our community in our ability to speak boldly and change the world for Christ.
In coming weeks, Stoa leadership will continue to work toward creative ways to communicate as well as recognize our hard-working members. We commit to ongoing, transparent communication in the coming weeks. Please check with us on our website and social media for further news.
May God bless us all, His children.
March 17th, 2020
The board met last night and is meeting again tonight. We are making progress in the decision-making process, and hope to have a statement out soon.
March 13th, 2020
Stoa Board of Directors Statement on COVID – 19
As you can probably imagine, the Stoa Board of Directors has received many requests for guidance from local tournament directors and members regarding COVID – 19 and its impact on local tournaments and NITOC.
Out of an abundance of caution and care for our members and tournament communities, the Board advises that club leaders, tournament directors, and each Stoa family keep apprised of current recommendations from the CDC and their state and local governments in order to make the best decision for their tournament.
Several tournaments have been cancelled for a variety of reasons. In many cases, tournament directors have already incurred personal costs associated with their events including trophies, office supplies, food, etc. Because we believe in the power of unity within the Body of Christ, will you consider blessing your local tournament director by allowing them to keep all or a part of your registration fees to recoup the capital they have invested?
As of today, NITOC 2020 is still a go. Our gracious hosts at Union University are still expecting us and preparing for our arrival! However, neither the board nor Union can know whether it will be safe to travel in May. Stoa leaders are in constant contact with Union University, and we are following the same advice we give to local tournament leaders. As time passes, we will closely monitor CDC and government recommendations and keep everyone updated.
A note on NITOC qualification: The board understands that tournament cancellations are going to make it difficult for many competitors to qualify. We have discussed this at length and are thinking and praying over options.
Regarding on-campus housing and meals, for which registration will soon open, Union has assured us that all payments will be fully refundable if the worst happens. See the NITOC housing website for the latest housing information. Also, please direct additional questions to firstname.lastname@example.org rather than Union University.
The Board of Directors is fervently praying for our entire membership as well as direction for the rest of the competition season. We are so grateful that our sovereign Lord has us fully in his hands!
Stoa Board of Directors