PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- There's a group of students at Deering High School in Portland who are practicing their arguing skills.

Five students on the Deering High School debate team have qualified to compete at this year's National Speech & Debate Tournament held in Birmingham, Alabama. Two will be competing in public forum, while the three others will be competing in world schools. They won't know what side of a topic they will be debating until the day of competition according to senior Alex Smith.

"When you do take both sides I think you gain the ability to understand especially what the other person is talking about," said Smith. "If you're in an argument you're going to be able to argue against someone else more effectively if you can understand what they're saying."

Things can get heated when the topics get intense. That's why coach Brian Dodge works to keep the conversation productive, but the diversity in the room makes his job easy.

"The kids are super comfortable debating things like race, gender identity, sexual orientation and all this stuff.," said Dodge. "They aren't afraid to kind of mix it up with that and they're also super, super respectful of each other and their opinions."

The trip to the 2017 Nationals will cost around $1,500 for each student on the debate team. There will be a fundraiser dinner at the school on May 4th sponsored by The Olive Garden. For ticket information email dodgeb@portlandschools.org.