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Middle School Speech Gets a Head Start

Kayla Hodges

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As Fair Grove students dive head first into autumn they are met with several exciting new activities such as fall sports, the fall play, holidays, and for some of the Fair Grove Middle School students it signifies the start of their Speech and Debate season. Speech and Debate is a club in both the high school and middle school in which students perform works of literature as competitive pieces. Bright and early on the 27th of October the middle school team attended their first tournament of the season.

The students were coached on their performances by Mrs. Jessica Champion, a middle school English teacher here at Fair Grove. This is Champion’s second year at Fair Grove Middle School as well as her second year coaching Speech and Debate, but Champion is far from inexperienced in Speech and Debate. Champion competed in speech throughout all of High School and a few years in college. “My main goal for this year is to get students involved in all events, including debate. I would really like to build up our debate program this year, because I feel like we have a lot of students who would excel in debate,” said Champion, “I also want to push several students to try new events that are out of their comfort zones,” she added.

The team meets every Tuesday after school from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm, during practices the students go over their pieces in front of Champion and perfect their art, research debate topics, and search for scripts and pieces to take to competition. The hard work at practices payed off for the students at their first tournament, with three of the events making it to finals. “I was so proud of how well our students did at our first tournament of the year! We typically don’t compete until the spring, so I was very excited that we had so many students who were ready to go already,” said Champion.

The events that made finals were Cooper Zumwalt (8) in Humorous Interpretation, Ayden Teaster (7) in Prose Reading, and the team of Cooper Zumwalt and Alex Kepes (8) in Duo Interpretation. Cooper Zumwalt, who is in the midst of his second season competing in speech and debate said, “I participate in speech because I enjoy public speaking and entertaining people.”

Zumwalt performs in 4 different categories, humorous interpretation, duo interpretation, radio speaking, and public debate forum. “Speech has helped me become less socially awkward and helped me open up more to talk to new people and really just make me a more social person,” said Zumwalt. Cooper has been one of the most successful people on the team, “Cooper Zumwalt and Alex Kepes are two of our most dedicated performers on our team. They are a huge encouragement to the rest of the team, and they are both driven by success,” said Champion.

Aside from being a great opportunity for middle school students, speech has also been an educational experience for some high school students too. Dane Psyhos, a junior at Fair Grove High School, is on the high school speech team and judges at the middle school tournaments. On the 27th Psyhos judged Humorous Interpretation and Poetry/Prose Reading, “judging helps me improve as a performer because I get to have the mindset of a judge so I know what the judges are looking for,” said Psyhos. During the High School season Psyhos competes in Humorous Interpretation, Improvisational Action, and Duo Interpretation, Psyhos stated, “my favorite part of judging probably has to be judging someone In round 1 and watching them climb through the ranks at the tournament and then possibly winning a trophy or a medal.”

The middle school speech team will attend more tournaments in the spring and will continue to rehearse strenuously until then.

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