Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to this Debate

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Art/Photo by Samantha Takeda

On April 12th-14th, tryouts for West High’s Speech and Debate team were held. Team captain Jana Abulaban (11) expresses what she got out of being a part of the team: “Once I joined, I understood the broader concept of Speech and Debate and really understood what I wanted to gain [from] it: that feeling of being part of a really supportive team…I have learned to publicly speak more and be more confident with it.”

Alexssa Takeda, Staff Writer

   During this year of concerning social issues and rapidly evolving political environments, it seems that a rising number of outspoken leaders are taking a stand. Despite the pandemic, West High’s Speech and Debate team continued its goal of bringing together these passionate students through club tryouts last week, from April 12th-14th.

   Like many other West High activities right now, Speech and Debate tryouts were held virtually over Zoom. Instead of nervously stepping into a room full of team captains and teachers, students hopped into a video call. Thankfully, the move to an online domain did not come with many issues. Speech and Debate captain Jana Abulaban (11) explained that despite some difficulties, tryouts this year were similar to any other year. “It’s a little bit harder since it’s on Zoom. Some people find it a little bit harder to find the Zoom link or find the password. But other than that, the structure is kind of the same,” she said. As always, there are going to be a few technical difficulties along the way. Many students have become familiar with the choppy audio, pixelated screens, and the accidental call-drop. Nevertheless, students were able to overcome these obstacles, allowing tryouts to proceed smoothly. 

   Nipunika Bandara (10), who was drawn to Speech and Debate by her passion for speaking her mind, explained what a pre-pandemic tryout looked like. At an event called Congress, students presented pre-written speeches for or against a specific bill or resolution and gave rebuts to their judges. In the end, the leadership team interviewed each student to determine which would be best suited for the team. 

   Ellie Noe (10) has also experienced being in Speech and Debate. Although she had to drop the club earlier this year due to time conflicts, she was excited to attend tryouts on Wednesday, April 13th, and improve her public speaking skills. Her biggest concern was the one-minute speech she had prepared beforehand on whether non-violent prisoners deserve government-funded rehabilitation. But she admits that it was significantly less daunting over Zoom: “It’s easier because you are in the comfort of your own home [and] it was in front of a screen.” 

   Unlike Noe, Bandara described her tryouts as “really nerve-racking because before [when] we were back in school…you have to give your speech to your entire class, and Mr. Ronne and Mrs. Hastings are in the corner.” Although there was more pressure, it allowed students to dive right into speaking and quickly master the craft.

   Abulaban agreed that over the three years she has been part of Speech and Debate, it has helped her develop her public speaking skills. She is also excited for incoming members. She expressed, “I hope whoever turns out is excited about Speech and Debate and [will] benefit from Speech and Debate as much as I did and even more!”