RCHS Students qualify for National tournament
for Speech and Debate
By Celeste McNeil; photo courtesy of Megan McDonald
Students Allison Willner, Carter McDonald and Frankie Stroud qualified for the National Speech and Debate congress tournament, representing Rock Canyon High School (RCHS). Jacob Aragon and Krish Kumar qualified as alternates. The national tournament will be held in mid-June.
The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) sponsored activity’s season begins in November and runs until April, with debates nearly every weekend. The district tournament, which was the qualifier for congress nationals, took place in late January. The qualifying tournaments for the other speech and debate competitions will take place this month. This year all tournaments are virtual.
Each congress (house or senate) debate consists of 12-15 students and a docket of bills. The students have about 10 days to research both sides of each bill and prepare an argument for and against. The bill topics, submitted from all the various teams and judges, range from slightly silly – banning glitter – to current world political issues. Each student gives a three-minute speech and then entertains questions from the other students for two minutes.
McDonald explained in more detail. “The actual tournaments are pretty much full day, or several day events. They are very draining but very rewarding. There was a lot of stress the week [of districts]. We had to prep three dockets comprised of six bills, and two sides [pro and con] each. It was a lot of work.”
Despite the hard work, McDonald loves participating in speech and debate. “My favorite aspect is the different sides it seems to bring out of people as everyone puts aside differences and just focuses on the debate at hand.”
Mary Burnham, RCHS English teacher and faculty sponsor, has been coaching the speech and debate team for four years. Previously, she was at Rocky Heights Middle School, where many of her current team members started in speech and debate in sixth grade.
“They are a fierce group of competitors. When they were in sixth grade, I remember training a group of seventh and eighth graders for a national tournament. In the middle of practice, I turned behind me and there sat these three starry-eyed sixth graders furiously taking notes about a tournament they would not even attend. They are now all nationally ranked competitors.”
Mainly a student-led activity, leadership opportunities are abundant for those interested. Burnham elaborated, “Members of the team foster skills of leadership, diversity, and inclusion. The transformation of students into strong, confident, diligent, and critical thinkers is what matters the most. The power of speech and debate is about the process, not the ends in themselves.”