Leland High School Speech and Debate Team recently competed in the largest high school speech and debate competition in the world, the 2013 National Forensic League Speech and Debate Tournament. The Leland team’s stellar performance at this national level competition earned them a School of Distinction Award. Only the top 10 schools, out of 967 high schools in the tournament, are given this distinguished recognition.
About 120,000 high school students originally competed to get to the National event. In order to secure a spot, schools had to place among the top competitors at one of 109 district tournaments throughout the country. From there, students were invited to the national tournament, which was held June 16 – 22, in Birmingham, Alabama. More than 3,000 high school students participated, including students from 20 international countries.
This year, 14 Leland students qualified to compete in the tournament, and 12 returned with awards. Leland tournament highlights included Laith Shakir winning first in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and Young Wu being chosen as one of the six finalists for the National Forensic League Student of the Year.
Leland also had two Policy Debate teams place in the top 6, a particularly significant accomplishment for an individual school. Those students are Sunny Advani, Rohan Varma, Gary Lin and Shreyas Kamat. In addition, Ethan Hu advanced to semifinals in Student Congress. Other team members participating in the tournament included Alex Polussa, Rushil Patel, Aayush Kumar, Steven Lin, Priya Diwakar, Ian Buckman and Christine Dong. Coaches in attendance were Thomas Meagher, Julian Crown and Chris Wardner. Wardner coached Shakir for his first place win.
Gay Brasher is the team’s director and coach. Says Brasher, "Participation in competitive speech and debate gives students skills that they will use throughout their lives. They will always be comfortable and secure whenever they are in public speaking situations, which for many others are terrifying experiences.” Besides competing in various events to earn points towards the National Forensic League’s overall ranking, all team members also do public service work. The Leland team is currently in First Place in the overall national ranking.
Student Sunny Advani said of the Leland Speech and Debate team experience, “To college institutions, speech and debate is more than just an extra-curricular activity. It's just like any sport - it requires teamwork, adaptation and plenty of hard work. Students in debate, for example, learn important research, public speaking and leadership skills. Being a part of Leland Speech and Debate shaped me more than anything else during my years at high school. Leland's team inspires teamwork, hard work, and success in all its participants.”
The National Forensic League is the national honor society for middle and high school speech and debate. The League’s mission is, “To empower students to become effective communicators, ethical individuals, critical thinkers, and leaders in our democratic society”. They compete for more than $200,000 in college scholarships at the National Tournament. For more information the organization’s website is: http://www.nationalforensicleague.org/