HARLINGEN — Within five minutes of meeting Matthew Canon, you realize you’ve met one of those larger-than-life characters who seem to get an intense rush out of just being alive.
Quite a statement considering he’s 17 years old, and he’s preparing to travel with his fellow Speech, Drama and Debate team members to a national tournament in May.
“I’m doing awesome,” said the Harlingen High School South senior. You might think he’d won the lottery, but for Matthew it’s just another joyous day for being alive. Plus he’s a bit turbo-charged about competing in both dramatic interpretation and humorous interpretation at the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions in Denver, Colorado.
“The reason I chose two is because Ms. Ince always says you don’t want to place all your eggs in one basket,” Matthew said. “This gives me a choice. If I don’t excel at one event, I always have one to fall back on. So I’m giving 110 percent at both events. If one doesn’t work out, I have one that I can go in and rock.”
Lee Ann Ince, coach and sponsor of the HHSS Speech, Drama and Debate Team, said she’s never had a student like Matthew, who is ranked extremely high in both the state and the nation.
“Matthew Canon is quite a story,” she said. “He’s never missed a tournament in four years, and he has over 3,000 points. You accumulate those through all of your years of high school in any type of speech and debate activity. I’ve never had a student with that many points.”
Matthew feels his strong drive has contributed to his success.
“I’m passionate about speech and debate,” he said. “It’s basically my dedication. It’s been a huge part of my life since my freshman year. I’ve been in theater since sixth grade. Once I came over here to HHSS, this speech, drama and debate opened so many doors for me. I’ve learned so many life lessons through this program.”
He feels a desire to help others, and he believes participation in speech, drama and debate is one way to do that. So he regularly encourages others to join.
His dramatic interpretation is based on Ross Mathews, an American television personality. Canon has been inspired by Mathews’ book, “Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence.”
“It’s his story about how he became successful and he gives advice to young people around the world,” Matthew said. “He shares his message for all individuals. Do what makes you happy in life. You have to believe in yourself 110 percent.”
This powerful belief is the only way a person can choose his or her most important dream and then pursue it, Matthew said.
“I’m a huge fan of Ross Mathews because he’s basically me, but an adult version and famous,” Matthew said. “He is a hoot. He is just awesome. I made so many connections with him inside the book.”
His humorous interpretation is about a boy discovered in a cave in West Virginia. He’s half human and half bat. He goes to live with a family in which the father is a veterinarian.
“The message is very important at the end,” Matthew said. “He just wants to be accepted. And that’s a trait that everyone can relate to.”