As I grew older, I realized that I would never invent a functioning jetpack or dig a tunnel from the playground to China. However, my innovative spirit remains. When I don't have the materials or tools I need, I make do with what I am given. This outlook has not only enabled me to better appreciate the opportunities I do have, but it has also brought me to make opportunities where they might not have previously existed.
I think you should remain in the past tense all throughout. The other sentences seem a little out of place for me since the first sentence was past tense..
My enthusiasm for debate began to stagnate. I realized that in order to retain my passion for debate I needed to compete on another level.
I think, in order for the sentences to flow better, you can include the phrase "for debate" only once. You might want to put: I realized that in order to retain this passion I needed to compete on another level"
In order to gain experience debating nationally ranked teams, I am working with my Spanish teacher (and school technology guru) to set up a video-conferencing system so we can debate anyone in the country. To get advice and feedback, we have found a coach in Idaho who is willing to work with us from a distance over e-mail and the phone. With the support of the school principal and some generous donations, we now have the opportunity to travel to some of the most competitive national tournaments.
I think you should keep the first two sentences in past tense and leave the second one as is. That way, you can create a sense of cause and effect.
I think its great, it just might be more complete if you connected the ending to your inventive skills again, since that was what you connected the rest of the essay to.
If you have the time, please take a look at my "into the light" essay. Thank you :]