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Sugar House Journal

Highland holds first speech and debate tournament

Oct 17, 2018 11h44 ● By Jana Klopsch

Samantha Reynoso, West High School and Sofia Price, Highland High School. Both students are in the 9th grade and gave speeches on bullying and imaginary friends, respectively. (Allison Moore/City Journals)

By Allison A. Moore | [email protected]

Kimberly Hunter, Highland High School speech and debate coach, was excited to host the first tournament held at Highland. “This event was for novice speakers and debaters,” she said. Eighteen schools from several districts competed in the event held on Oct. 5 and 6.  

This event kicked off the season, which will include a minimum of 14 additional tournaments throughout the year. “For the very first tournament, I prefer it to be all novices, the intimidation factor is a lot less,” explained Hunter. Speech events included impromptu, extemporaneous, original oratory and interpretation. Competition was held in classrooms and judged by varsity speech and debate students. 

The debate portion of the tournament included three main debates—policy, legal and public forum—as well as congressional debates, where students divide into the house and senate respectively and debate bills. The topics are chosen by the National Speech and Debate Association and are the same nationwide, centering around current world and national events. 

“The congressional debate is just like Congress, except with less emotion, they leave the emotion at home,” explained Hunter. 

Because public speaking is the No. 1 fear of adults,  speech and debate are an excellent class for students of all ages. One of the biggest misconceptions of debate is that it is simply arguing. 

“That’s where people get it wrong. It isn’t arguing, well it is, but it’s structured argumentation. It’s very structured so that you can learn how to analyze something better and you have to have your evidence. The key is having evidence to back you up. You can say whatever you want, but unless you have evidence you have no proof. Debating is a skill and it is not just random arguing for argumentations sake.”

Hunter said the class teaches basic skills such as maintaining eye contact and articulation, which is a key, especially in teenagers who tend to mumble a lot. Students also learn how to control themselves, their speaking manner and how to analyze situations. These skills come in handy in job interviews, or in real world situations when conflicts occur. Students are encouraged to dress in a manner that is professional. 

“You want the judges to focus on what you are saying, not what you are wearing,” explained Hunter. 

Teenagers are different at home compared to class but when you see them in speech and debate it blows your mind, Hunter added. “The kid that can’t change the toilet paper at home, can give this awesome speech on the president of Zimbabwe. Who knew? It’s amazing. It gives you hope. It’s super rewarding, the students are awesome, they work hard and when you see them get it and the light bulb goes on, all the pieces come together and you can tell these kids are going to go far.”

Because this is the first tournament and for novice students only, there were 11 participants from Highland in the tournament. Highland has a speech and debate class and club and more students will participate in upcoming events. Another tournament will be held later this month, hosted by Hunter High School.