Local speech, debate students gain national experience

HARLINGEN — She’s 15th in the nation.

Aaron Blount’s performance in prose interpretation grabbed the judge’s attention well last week. Her technique, coupled with her topic about school shootings, reached many.

“It’s a very effective piece and it’s even more effective because it’s in Florida,” said Aaron, 13 She was one of 20 Harlingen school district middle schoolers who competed in a variety of events at the 2018 National Speech and Debate Tournament in Fort Lauderdale.

“The competitions were pretty hard because there were 16 rounds a day, one after the other,” said Blount, a semi-finalist in the event.

The kids worked hard for it, said Ivette Connell, speech, drama and debate coach atVela Middle School.

“I’m going to tell you it’s been an amazing experience for these kids,” Connell said. “There were middle schoolers from across the nation, the majority of which were from private schools and academies. There were also children from Japan, Taiwan and China.”

The tournament was especially significant for Harlingen students because the district only began offering middle schoolers the opportunity to compete at the national level last year.

Christopher Ringheanu was a finalist at the event.

“I talked about the effect of stress on our bodies, how it can impact our lives, how it changes our behavior,” said Christopher, who placed seventh in informative speaking.

“I tried my best in that final round,” said Christopher, 13. “I messed up a little bit but it was OK. There were around 50 people in informative.”

He valued the challenges and experiences he acquired through the tournament.

“I was pretty proud of myself,” he said. “I didn’t expect to get so far. Doing so was a really great experience.”

Aaron appreciated the whole speech, drama and debate experience.

“I really enjoy the relationship with the team and how we travel a lot, and being together as a family,” she said.

While Aaron is a veteran competitor, many of the students were enjoying a new experience.

“For so many of them this was their first year competing in speech, drama and debate programs,” Connell said. “All year they have competed in tournaments mostly in the Rio Grande Valley and in the Corpus Christi area. This was the first time that they have competed with kids from across the nation.”