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No argument here: Keystone Heights High’s debate team earns national honors

By Kylie Cordell For Clay Today
Posted 5/25/23

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – After a five-year hiatus, the Keystone Heights Speech and Debate team inducted four members in the National Speech and Debate Association Honor Society – Mikayla Turner, Oliva …

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No argument here: Keystone Heights High’s debate team earns national honors


Posted

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – After a five-year hiatus, the Keystone Heights Speech and Debate team inducted four members in the National Speech and Debate Association Honor Society – Mikayla Turner, Oliva McCoy, Seth Preseau, and Benjamin Man.

“This is our first year as a debate team. We have competed in a total of seven regular-season tournaments, a couple of State tournaments and then we are going to nationals at the end of the week. It’s been keeping us very busy,” said coach Shannon Southam.

KHHS’ Turner and McCoy will compete at the national tournament with The National Catholic Forensic League in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 26-29. The competition is one of the most prestigious in the country.

Events range from limited preparation events that require extensive knowledge of current events, impromptu speaking, Congressional Debate where students draft proposed laws and give position statements and Oral Interpretation of literature.

“For drama interpretations, they had to pick a piece, memorize it, and perform it for 10 minutes. Then you have the public speaking aspect- impromptu, duo interpretation, declamation, auditory, and informative speaking,” she said.

To prepare for competitive events, the team engaged in practice rounds. Students get seven minutes to select a topic, brainstorm ideas, outline and deliver a speech in front of their peers. Students also worked on presentation skills, tips and techniques.

“We work on stage presence, how they walk into the room, how they talk, their movements, making sure they keep their hands presentable, but not as a nervous reaction. They are learning how to properly speak in front of an audience,” Southam said.

Speech and Debate sharpens students’ ability to think critically, organize their thoughts and communicate their viewpoint quickly and succinctly. Whether debating in the classroom, volunteering, speaking at a rally, or acting on stage, students use what they learn in speech and debate daily.

Students Turner and McCoy explained how debate helped them gain confidence, meet new people, and grow as public speakers.

“Basically, before Speech and Debate, I was a really reserved, quiet person in a classroom setting. With speech and debate, I’ve learned how to be confident and elaborate on what I am trying to say. Now I confidently give presentations and talk to my teachers about lecturers,” Turner said.

McCoy agreed, noting that Speech and Debate made her more comfortable in public settings and open to people she wouldn’t normally talk to. It also allows you to meet people from other schools who have similar interests.

“They are here for professional reasons to compete,” Southam said. “But they are also there to have fun. They build relationships with other schools. They build long-lasting friendships.”

For more information about Speech and Debate please visit www.speechanddebate.org. If there are students who are interested in joining or if you are an adult who would like to volunteer by becoming a judge, please get in touch with Southam at Shannon.khhs@gmail.com.

“We’re trying to figure out where we are going to be in the next few years. We’re hoping to grow this program and see where it goes,” Southam said.

“I know right now, Clay County has a few Speech and Debate clubs, but they mostly fade away. At this time, we are the only active team in Clay County. With that, we can move up in the ranks if we have more speech and debate teams and get more involved in our community and with our schools,” she said.