Students’ Voices Lead Them To Their Dreams
Speech and debate is a highly competitive, technical, and creative activity that requires students to show confidence in their voice, resilience and originality in their character, and dedication to their passions in order to succeed. These are qualities the STRIVE Prep – RISE and STRIVE Prep – SMART Speech and Debate team members possess. Being nationally ranked and recognized as two of the top 10 teams in the state of Colorado, these teams and students have countless trophies, ribbons, and plaques under their belts which are sure to be motivation boosters. This June, they are heading to the national tournament where they are competing with 2,000 other schools and more than 6,000 students, making it the biggest academic competition in the world.
These students got more than just the national recognition and awards they bargained for when they joined the activity. It has given them the necessary life skills and tools to be successful academically and socially. From confidence building to interview prepping, this program has been a game-changer for these STRIVE Prep students.
“It’s a place where the students can feel supported, challenged, can feel nurtured and welcomed, and just have a lot of fun,” said STRIVE Prep – SMART Speech and Debate teacher and head coach, Grant Thomas. This extracurricular activity has given students a place where they can find their passions and know that they belong in “those challenging academic spaces,” as put by Thomas.
Joyuse Avila-Rodriguez was awarded the Posse Scholarship, which gives its recipient a full-tuition scholarship to one of the organization’s college and university partners, due in part to the skills he learned from years of competing with the STRIVE Prep – SMART Speech and Debate team. Being able to conduct himself successfully throughout the interview process in which he would have to interpret questions effectively and express his answers thoughtfully, are just some of the tools he acquired.
Another student who achieved her college dream through speech and debate was STRIVE Prep – RISE senior, Ariana Nungaray-Arias. Also through the power of learning the skills necessary to be a top academic achiever and near-perfect interviewee, she achieved some things that most graduating seniors can only imagine – acceptance to her top-choice, four-year university. “One of my favorite things [about] the speech and debate team is all of the opportunities we have… I was able to get into my dream school, the University of Chicago, because of Speech and Debate… [here] you’re able to get those opportunities that will help you tremendously in life.”
Aside from impressive academic accolades and achievements, speech and debate has allowed students to find themselves in new lights of creativity and thought leadership. “[It] has empowered me to do better and advocate for what is right,” said Tram Nguyen, a sophomore team member at STRIVE Prep – SMART. These students are agents of change and are being commissioned to speak up and not be afraid to express their opinions.
“People are sort of forced to listen to what you have to say, which is really awesome…As a teenager, not a lot of people are willing to listen to you, but Speech and Debate allows that to happen and allows you to have a free voice,” expressed STRIVE Prep – RISE Senior and first-year competitor, Juan Hernandez.
Speech and debate is not your average elective, it’s an avenue to grow, learn, and achieve things that seemed like far-off dreams and aspirations such as getting into and thriving in their colleges and careers. As STRIVE Prep – RISE Speech and Debate Head Coach Anna Steed said, “They are seeing where education can take you outside of these walls… we want them to know they are valued there and they are needed there.”
Speech and debate is made up of humorous or dramatic piece performances, or current event discussion and research, presented before a judge in the hopes of being the top performer and moving up the ranks to compete nationally. Across the country, 105,000 students participate in speech and debate, yet only a select few make it to the national competition for the opportunity to get nationally recognized and win numerous awards and scholarships. Members from both teams will be traveling to Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona in June 2023 to compete in the 5-day National Speech and Debate Tournament.