By Robert Gamble
The 2019-2020 season of the Speech & Debate team is a testament to what hard work and a resilient community of individuals can achieve.
Built on the premise of facilitating the speaking and debating skills of America’s young voices, the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) was founded in 1925 by Bruno E. Jacob. His small association has now blossomed into a nationally recognized organization with more than two million registered participants across the United States. Pennsylvania alone holds over 150 schools across fifteen districts, who compete in Speech & Debate.
For years, our small club has struggled to stay afloat in the sea of competition from Speech & Debate powerhouses such as Unionville and Lower Merion. With active membership at a seemingly all-time low (around ten active members) during the 2018-2019 season, the GVHS team faced many setbacks. However, we still managed to send two Public Forum (2v2) and one Parliamentary (3v3) debate teams to districts. My partner, John Teng, and I actually managed to win the third-place title at districts and received an alternate position for the state championship.
As the 2018-2019 season came to a close, new officers were elected to head the newly established team: Atreya Ghosh, president; Robert Gamble (me), vice-president; Morgan Dempsey, treasurer; and Annie DiClemente, secretary. I vividly recall a meeting that took place right before the end of the school year last year, where all the officers were in unanimous agreement about our high hopes for the new team. We made it our goal to rebuild the club from the ground up and transform it into something spectacular. Along with the help of our newly appointed club sponsor/coach Mr. Yohannan, we made this dream into a reality.
The first day of Speech & Debate on, September 26th, showed much-needed promise for the new season. With the fantastic turnout of over seventy students, we knew we were heading in the right direction. From there, the team only grew. Our first competition at Lower Merion High School was held on October 17th. At this point, our team had over ninety registered members, and we had over forty members compete at this competition . Looking back, this moment was indeed one of the most inspirational points of my entire life. It was the first time in my life I could see irrefutable evidence of what hardwork and perseverance can achieve.
As the season progressed and the competitions became increasingly fierce, our members remained tenacious. We have yet to compete in a competition with less than thirty members, and our club has amassed a large amount of respect and following from other schools in our area.
Watching the regular season come to a close last Thursday was among the most ambivalent moments I’ve experienced. The joy of watching our members, which my fellow officers and I helped coach and mold into speakers and debaters, receive awards for their achievements made me truly ecstatic; but, the realization that this experience was now over also brought me much sorrow.
My partner, Atreya Ghosh, and I have remained undefeated during the regular season, and I, for two straight years. Although I was awarded the third-place title for my district last year, I aim to represent Garnet Valley High School at the state level at Bloomsburg University this year. With this truly amazing team by my side, I know that this goal is feasible for me and many of the other competitors heading into next Thursday’s districts competition for Debate (February 13th) and Speech (February 20th).
I cannot begin to express my gratitude to the members of this team for the life-changing opportunity they have given me as their Vice-president. I genuinely hope I can continue in this position, my passion, into the 2020-2021 season. I remain optimistic about our club’s ability to succeed at the district level and am thrilled to watch them compete at the state level this year.
*Updates about this team will be included in the upcoming Districts Speech & Debate Feature of the Jaguar Journal.