DEBATE-KC in Dallas. Reflecting on DKC Student Experiences at the 2015 National Speech & Debate Association Championship in Dallas, Texas
With the beginning of the new school year comes the question: what did you do this summer? For a dozen DEBATE-Kansas City (DKC) students one of the answers to that question included competing at the 2015 National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) championship tournament in Dallas, Texas. The national tournament is the largest academic competition in the world and featured over 4,000 competitors.
In order to qualify to the prestigious tournament high school students had to earn a top spot at their qualifying district tournament. This year, six DKC students from Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences and two from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy did just that, meanwhile Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy (LATCA) made the journey to the middle school portion of the tournament. For students in sixth grade through eighth no qualification is needed to compete, only the resources for travel, lodging and coaching.
Sumner Academy’s Mylan Gray and Alex Trobough both advanced to the top 60 at the NSDA Nationals in the event of United States Extemporaneous Speaking. Mylan, who just started his college career at Stanford, also advanced to quarter-finals in the supplemental event of prose. Mr. Gray was also a finalist for the William Woods Tate, Jr. Memorial National Student of the Year Award. Other Sumner students that qualified included Brandon Bush Thompson in Dramatic Interpretation, LaTara Demery in Original Oration, Michael Franklin in International Extemporaneous Speaking, Suan Sonna in Congressional Debate (House) and Vanessa Obi attended as an intern. Of note is that Mr. Sonna qualified as a first year high school student, which is very rare.
Upon qualifying to nationals in Congress Suan said, “When I first heard I made it to nationals in Congress, I took it in humbly and thanked my debate coach. I didn’t want to be too proud, since I realized that I had a lot of work to do and much to live up to. Nonetheless, I was really excited and stressed at the same time!”
When asked about what approach he used to soar above upper class competitors Suan said, “My approach was to first get all the evidence I needed. That was most important. The next step was to watch lots of debates and begin to plan out strategies and ways that I should act in a debate round.” In addition, Suan talked about the importance of being in debate since middle school, which, gave him the experience needed to earn a bid to nationals:
“I cannot emphasize enough how important DKC middle school debate is. I would not even be half or even a fourth of the debater I am now if I had not gone through middle school debate. At a young age it taught me public speaking, to think critically and quickly, to be a better decision maker, more confident and aware of my surroundings. This made me far ahead of my classmates in academics and made me a much stronger person.”
The other high school team competing at NSDA Nationals was Lincoln College Preparatory Academy with the policy debate duo of Monica Medeiros and Ellen Baker. For the talented young women it was actually their third national tournament of the year. At the NSDA tournament the duo finished with a very respectable .500 record, but Ellen and Monica set the bar really high by previously finishing third at Urban Debate Nationals and advancing to elimination rounds at the National Catholic Forensic League Nationals. Still, only a handful of policy teams from the state of Missouri have ever competed at three national tournaments in one year, and they were just the third and fourth students from Lincoln Prep to ever qualify to NSDA nationals. Overall, they put together one of the best seasons by a policy team in DKC history.
Upon reflecting about the national tournament experience Ellen Baker said, “NSDA was full of opportunities, almost overwhelmingly so. The competition was extremely good, and we were able to make connections with friends and college coaches from across the nation, which is so valuable as an incoming senior.” After a great season full of success and continued learning Monica Medeiros and Ellen Baker have high hopes for their upcoming senior year.
Lee A. Tolbert competed in the Junior Nationals component of the NSDA tournament. Head Coach Bill Lindsey has made a habit of taking his middle school squad to compete at nationals each year. Strong support from parents and the administration have been critical in helping LATCA raise the funds and support to make the trip. This year the following students were able to compete for LATCA: Tylecia Wiley, Mariyah Haliburton, Ericka Scott, De’na Newborn and Marquies Johnson. Two of them came close to entering elimination rounds in speech events, but the most valuable part of the trip was the experienced gained. All of LATCA students that competed at nationals will be returning to the squad.
“We will return 15 students from last year’s team,” said Coach Lindsey. “We had over 50 kids at our first practice and we are hoping for our best season yet, including a strong showing at the 2016 National Tournament in Salt Lake City.”
With a new season to begin NSDA Nationals is now a memory for these teams, and that memory will drive these squads to get back to nationals next summer. DKC will be there to help every step of the way, and will be pushing to help new squads make it to nationals.