Middle School Speech and Debate Finishing Strong


Middle School Speech and Debate team poses with their trophies.

Mitch Van Cleave

The Fair Grove Middle School Speech and Debate Team has strove for success in their competitions this year, with more to come. The team contains approximately 20 middle school students that have all found positive results in their individual events. This kind of prosperity came from the hard work and dedication of the competitors. Middle School Speech Coach, Jessica Champion commented, “Most of our students have to be self-driven in order to place well at competition. Students who do the best and learn the most from the program are those who are motivated to practice on their own time at home.”

One of these students is Alex Kepes, an eighth grader, who according to Champion has shown strength in her individual events this year. Kepes stated, “During our recent tournament in Republic, our school placed second overall. We also had a debate team place second. I personally place second in duo with my partner, Cooper Zumwalt, fourth in original oratory, and fifth in storytelling.”

Most of these students are preparing to enter the high school arena, and are even looking forward to the benefits of Speech and Debate after high school. Champion added, “I think that speech and debate not only prepares students for high school competition, but it also gives students real-life skills that translate outside of the classroom. Students learn how to speak confidently to others and in front of others. They also learn valuable critical thinking skills that will help them in the classroom and in the real world.”

This past year, high school junior Georgia Whalley went to Speech State in Prose Reading. On this subject, Kepes responded, “Georgia is a huge inspiration to me and I can’t wait to learn from her. I only aspire to go to state with as much success as she did.”

As a whole, Champion feels that Speech and Debate has made a large impact on her students’ social skills. She concluded, “My goal for our program at the middle school level is to empower students to get out of their comfort zones and become better communicators. In the past two years since I’ve worked with these kids, I’ve seen tremendous growth in many of our students who began as shy and ended with courage and confidence. I believe that middle school is the best time to try new things and get out of your comfort zone, and speech and debate offers exactly that.”