On Wednesday, Dec. 4, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School speech and debate team competed at their last competition of the first semester, which is the fourth out of eight after school competitions hosted monthly at Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
Fourteen out of 36 students in attendance from MSD, took home individual medals in the specific event they competed in.
This tournament was judged by varsity competitors from each of the participating schools. MSD speech and debate students were dismissed from school to attend the competition at 1:02 p.m., after B lunch, and returned back to the school at 7:15 p.m. On the way to Flanagan, the MSD bus picked up Everglades High School’s debate team from Miramar, Florida. This evening’s event had 36 competitors, the largest group to attend an after school competition so far this year from our school.
The events offered at this after school tournament can be found on the National Speech and Debate Association website and include speech events such as Duo, Humorous or Dramatic Interpretation, Storytelling and Original Oratory. They also provide debate events, namely Lincoln Douglas, Congress and Public Forum.
Debate students from MSD also had the opportunity to be student judges and earn volunteer hours. Student judges are experienced high school debaters and varsity competitors that volunteer to judge and provide peer coaching between competition. The student judges observe one or more rounds of an NSDA event and judge the participants on their preparation and performance.
MSD’s speech and debate students are required to attend at least one tournament each semester to receive credit. Students have the option to join a team at the beginning of the school year, allowing the teams to compete in an unlimited amount of competitions.
“[I became a student judge] partially because it’s service hours and then also partially because I like watching younger LD [students], like debaters, and seeing how they start,” sophomore Alyssa Robinson said. “Speech and debate has helped me a lot. It’s helped me with my argumentative thinking and it’s helped me think on the spot.”
Speech and debate students are given in-class assignments that educate them on each event to help them decide which ones to pursue. Preparation for Wednesday’s tournament consisted of attending after school practices, finding scripts and writing a multitude of speeches weeks in advance.
“Speech and debate is amazing. I’ve gotten much better in public speaking and being more comfortable with myself talking in front of other people,” freshman Kate Becker said. “You become a family and it’s just really fun, I recommend it to other people.”
The MSD speech and debate program has opened numerous doors for their students. The extracurricular program is full of attainable goals and achievements, especially for the future.
“Speech and debate has impacted me because ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a lawyer, and I figured that debate would be the perfect way to practice. I’m not as shy as I was before and I’m more out there and now I’m sure that I’ll be confident enough to pursue the career of my choice, which is law,” freshman Nicole Silva said. “I have learned how to say my true opinions and how to form and conduct a speech in the right way so that I can get people’s attention and persuade anyone else into doing whatever I’m talking about or whatever I’m doing.”
Students are constantly trying to build their experience to qualify for the National Speech and Debate Association’s National Tournament in Dallas, Texas from June 16-21 through district, state and regional tournaments. Additionally, speech and debate teacher Jacob Abraham proposes many opportunities for his students to develop communication skills, analyze issues and come up with solutions.
“I hope they [the students] gain experience and skills they’re able to use throughout their high school career and further on in life,” Abraham said. “They’ve developed confidence, critical thinking skills, and how to hone their voice on topics that matter to them or are prevalent in the news.”
A middle school speech and debate competition, similar to today’s event, will be held at MSD on Wednesday, Dec. 11. In February, qualifying MSD speech and debate students will be given the chance to travel to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the 46th Annual Harvard National Forensics Tournament.