This year at Pioneer High School, students are participating in the Northern Nevada Forensic League Speech and Debate tournaments for the first time. Currently the Pioneer team is made up of 9th-12th grade students and includes experienced and extroverted speakers, like senior Taylor Lynch and novice and enthusiastic competitors like Jeremiah Beauford, who has competed at every tournament this year.
Having participated in speech and debate as an extracurricular when I was in high school, I’m a strong advocate for anyone to compete and experience the tournament atmosphere, as there’s nothing quite like it.
Each tournament is separated into speech events on Friday and debate events on Saturday. Judges with various experience levels get a stack of ballots and head to a classroom to listen to the competitors’ presentations.
This year we have entered into the duo interpretation, dramatic interpretation, poetry and prose interpretation and impromptu speech events. In these speaking events the participants have prepared and memorized literary works into performance-style presentations.
I love the energy that comes with the Friday events. The Pioneer speech and debaters have been collaborating all year long on their pieces. They have fun rehearsing at lunch and after school, and while at the tournament I’m always pleasantly surprised by the positive and professional attitudes they have when it comes to their competition and the judge evaluations.
The debate events on Saturday may be a little daunting for a freshmen team to compete in. The debate prompts are rigorous and some of the debate rules can be scary to a novice team; however, we have had some brave Pioneer students compete in the Congress debate. Although one of the more basic events, the team gets to prepare speeches in affirmation and/or negation on student written and submitted legislation. The congress debate is competitive, competitors have to compete for speaking time and try to earn speaking points from asking thought and debate provoking questions throughout the two-and-a-half-hour rounds.
It has been a learning year for our young team. We intend to take two to three participants to the state competition in March and to recruit more competitors for our team for next year, as well as prepare for the different speech and debate events offered.
When asked about the debate team, Mr. Zona stated, “Such important activities would not occur if it were not for our committed staff such as Mrs. Rowbottom. She is truly appreciated and a staff leader on campus. Our Speech and Debate students at PHS who give up their lunch time to prepare and show up on Saturdays at other schools is an inspiration to me as their principal. They are committed, courageous, and model positive examples for other students in our community.”
Jourdan Rowbottom is a JAG Specialist and teacher at Pioneer High School.