By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Imagine traveling to Washington, D.C., to compete in a debate championship, while also visiting the new, awe-inspiring National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and meeting with some of President Barack Obama’s top policy advisers – all in four, jam-packed days.
That is exactly what 29 members of the award-winning Henry W. Grady High School Speech and Debate Team did Dec. 1-5, when they attended the George Mason University “Patriot Games” High School Speech and Debate Tournament. The national tournament draws entries from about 20 states and over 2,000 individual entries every year. Despite the competition, the Jesters performed well against other high school teams across the country.
Here’s how they fared:
Ben Bizot and Harper Gambill – Top 60 in Public Forum Debate
Grace Bridges – Top 30 in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate
Kassidy Kelley – Top 60 in Original Oratory
Gregory Fedorov and Sam Lombardo – Top 34 in Extemporaneous Speaking
Gregory Fedorov – Top 34 in Impromptu Speaking
Sam Lombardo – 10th in Impromptu Speaking
Speech and debate coach Mario Herrera described the trip as “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, and said he is extremely proud of the students.
“They were phenomenal, and it was a wonderfully fun and competitive tournament that students thoroughly enjoy,” said Herrera, who was named a “Mason Mentor” by the tournament director, Dr. Peter Pober, in 2013. “It is competitive, but the Jesters have always done well and we have advanced entries to semi-finals every single year we have attended. We’ve also had two champions in previous years.”
While in D.C., the students met with four policy advisers to discuss such topics as national security issues in government; democracy, transition and law; the future of the Supreme Court; and criminal justice.
“It was a transformative experience, and the speakers were amazing,” Herrera said.
In addition to participating in the debate tournament, Herrera said the annual experience exposes students to different college campuses they may never see. In years past, the team has attended tournaments on campuses all over the country, such as Harvard University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Florida, the University of Georgia, Wake Forest, Clemson, University of New Mexico, and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, just to name a few.
The Jesters will travel to the University of Alabama for the first time in 2017.