The annual Speech and Debate Speech Congress was held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12-13, at Paonia High School. Eight Western Slope schools and more than 45 students participated in the Congressional and Senate house debates.
During the debates, students introduce bills and resolutions through speeches, which must be no longer than three minutes. Students then debate the bill. The process closely mimics an actual Capital Hill debate, and each of the three sessions lasts three hours.
Delta High School senior Cidney Fisk was one of two students to qualify for nationals. Fisk qualified in the Senate. This will be her third national competition. Fisk, head of the DHS Colorado Young Democrats chapter, believes that political involvement is one of the most important ways to advocate for today's youth. She praised participation in speech and debate for creating a strong foundation and for preparing her to participate in other clubs and areas of life.
Delta team members Hannah Owens, Anthony Streich and Lydia Stalcup were all selected as alternates.
Streich, a senior, authored a bill "to eliminate the tipped employee minimum wage." Streich said it takes only a few minutes to write the bill, but that learning the background information takes much longer. He makes it a point to write bills in a way that stirs both sides of the argument. "I look for things that can bring change to the world," said Streich.
Streich, who placed in the top 30 in state in extemporaneous speaking in 2015, said writing bills that one is against is more difficult, but students often write bills they don't agree with in order to hone their debate skills.
Paonia and Hotchkiss students form a combined team. Hotchkiss sophomore Jordan Denison introduced a bill to restrict CO2 emissions from coal-burning power plants. He chose the topic after being asked to write on something related to coal, which is important to Delta County. Rather that write on the mines, he chose a more broad topic with wide-reaching effects. The bill failed by a vote.
Students aren't scored just on speeches. Paonia-Hotchkiss team member Dylan Ashby served as presiding officer for the third time in his speech career. "I was so nervous," said Ashby. Among their responsibilities, presiding officers must follow precedence, time speeches and recognize students who have spoken the fewest times and least recently to ensure speakers are given equal time. They are also judged on a points system.
Paonia-Hotchkiss team results were not available at press time.
Speech and Debate is an activity of the Colorado High School Activities Association. As with sports, students earn letters and awards, and vie for individual and team titles at the district, regional and state levels according to the National Speech and Debate Association.
State speech and debate qualifications will be held Feb. 26 and 27, at Delta High School. Judges are needed. Call DHS at 874-8031 for details.