EHS takes part in debate tourney

Submitted photo Elkins High School students Sofia Triplett, left, Dominic Hussion, center, and Logan Miller prepare for a debate competition held at Davis & Elkins College.

ELKINS — Elkins High School students recently took part in a debate tournament hosted at Davis & Elkins College.

The two-day event took place over the weekend, when more than 200 high school students from across the state competed in the West Virginia High School Speech and Debate Tournament, organized by the West Virginia Speech and Debate Association.

Andrew Carroll, club advisor and English teacher at EHS, said his team is the largest speech and debate team the school has ever had, adding the team finished in seventh place overall in the competition, scoring 105 points.

“This is the biggest team we’ve ever had and we’re looking forward to growing as we enter our third year of competition,” Carroll said.

Davis & Elkins College President Chris Wood addressed students prior to the beginning of competitions, saying their participation in speech and debate would help them in many ways.

“I want to tell you that the skills you all are learning in speech and debate are going to be incredibly valuable to you as you move forward in life,” Wood said.

He told students they will gain similar skills at a liberal arts school, also encouraging them to explore higher-education possibilities within the state of West Virginia.

“In liberal arts colleges, students study many different subjects — the arts, humanities, sciences — and they major in one particular area,” he said. “The skills that you all are learning and will learn at a liberal arts school are skills like how to think critically, skills like how to use logic and reason, and skills like how to communicate in your oral communication and in your written communication — that’s what companies need in the 21st century from the workforce.”

Members of the team said they enjoy taking part in the school club because it gives them the opportunity to meet and learn from students from across the state.

Emilee Mearns, a 10th grader at EHS, said she enjoys interacting with other teams.

“It’s really cool because you get to see all kinds of different people and see how their schools teach them,” Mearns said. “Also, if you find the right people, they’ll sometimes give you a little help or pointers.”

Abiel Gallagher-Reyes, an 11th-grade student at EHS, said, “We’re really a collection of students who are doing disciplines in public forum, improve-duo, impromptu, Lincoln-Douglas debate and public forum. Each one has different sides of acting, speech, debating and arguing.”

Mearns added she enjoys debate because she has the opportunity to gain knowledge in areas she would not normally otherwise explore.

Both Mearns and Gallagher-Reyes said they are members of the Old Brick Playhouse apprenticeship program, adding they believe taking part in speech and debate is beneficial to their acting.

“As an actor, talking and being in front of people helps a lot,” Gallagher-Reyes said.

Students from EHS taking part in the tournament include Logan Miller and Sofia Triplett; Gallagher-Reyes and Michael DiBacco in Public Forum Debate; Dominic Hussion in Lincoln-Douglas Debate; Felix Schwab and Ciana Darling in Poetry Interpretation; Schwab and Hussion; Mearns and Ciana Darling in Improvisation Duo; Schwab and Mearns in Impromptu Speaking; and Mearns in Original Oratory.

Carroll said the club meets every Wednesday, in addition to having special meetings after school to prepare for debates.

“Two weeks before a tournament, we will meet every day after school for an hour and a half or two hours,” he said. “We also meet intermittently between tournaments, because we try to do one debate a month or so.

“In May, we’ll compete in the Ronald Reagan Great Communicator Debate Series — the topic is ‘Resolved: The United States should shift the power of congressional redistricting away from state legislatures,'” Carroll said. “Students will enter in a qualifying tournament online and two winners from that tournament will then travel to compete at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California for the national title and $50,000 in scholarships.”

Carroll noted students who qualify to compete in California will have the opportunity to meet and interact with students from across the country.

In addition to tournaments organized by the West Virginia Speech and Debate Association, the club has hosted public debates that focus on local issues.

“There is a competitive side and a side that is concerned with public discourse and conversations in the community,” Carroll said. “We have had students who held public debates at the Kump Center discussing important local issues.”