The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

Hero in the making: How a student’s troubled beginnings lead him to win debate championships

Forensics Team co-President Cody Hagemeier poses for a photo in front of the team’s room in the Music Building on May 25. (Raphael Richardson | The Union)

Dressed neatly with a crew neck sweater and dress shirt with a focused gaze, you might mistake Cody Hagemeier for an El Camino instructor.

You would be wrong.

At 28, the political science major is looking to earn his eighth associate’s degree and has served as a reserve soldier in the Marine Corps and as an Emergency Medical Technician in Compton.

More recently, he is a member of the award-winning Forensics Team at El Camino College, winning three championship awards, one of them most recently at the International Forensics Association Tournament in Tokyo in March.

However, life now for Hagemeier wasn’t as rewarding as when he was younger.

Born and raised in San Pedro, Hagemeier was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome. As specialists were treating him, he began watching movies.

Those movies centered around a hero’s story inspired Hagemeier to do better despite his disorders.

“I grew up wanting to accomplish something extraordinary or just do something fulfilling and purpose-driven with my life,” Hagemeier said. “I wanted to not be known sort of as the one who was broken or had a disorder. I wanted to be known as someone who is doing something good for the world and making a difference.”

With less than the best grades in high school and enrolling at El Camino College, he ditched his academic pursuit to join the fire academy. His father died just before he was set to graduate, thrusting him into a leadership role in his family.

“That is something that definitely forces you to grow up really fast,” he said. “It forces you to take responsibility of not just myself but my family.”

Shortly after graduating from the academy, he joined the Marines as a reserve soldier and worked as an EMT in Compton, both of which Hagemeier said helped develop his character and leadership skills.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic reignited a spark in Hagemeier to return to school.

“When COVID hit, I really became much more interested in academic pursuits,” he said. “I came back spring of 2021.”

At this time, during a philosophy class, a student recommended the Forensics Team, referring him to the team’s coach, Francesca Bishop.

“Well I met him first over two years ago, and I invited him to join the debate team, which he did,” she said. “He is the most reliable person I’ve ever had on the team. He is always prepared, he usually dresses up even for practice, he is always ready to go.”

Since joining and leading the team as co-president, he has won numerous awards for both himself and the team, earning the praise of his fellow team members like co-President Uzair Pasta.

“Cody is one of the most responsible, well-spoken, organized and cohesive people I’ve ever met on the team,” Pasta said. “Initially, he was quite reserved and kept to himself, but because he came into his leadership role, he was more outspoken and he truly did help me in terms of becoming a better speaker and leader.”

Hagemeier doesn’t plan on stopping at El Camino. He will go to UCLA to study political science, philosophy, and possibly law school afterward. He wants to be a hero in the spirit of his early movie inspirations.

“I’d like to serve the community in various different ways using my degree and then potentially enter politics at some point,” he said. “But we’ll see.”

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