Speech and debate students earn honors at TFA State Championship

March 9, 2018

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Cypress Woods High School senior Chakra Jonnalagadda placed second in Lincoln-Douglas Debate out of nearly 200 students who competed in his event at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship, held March 1-3 in La Vernia.

March 9, 2018—Students from nine CFISD high schools earned honors at the Texas Forensic Association (TFA) State Championship for speech and debate, including second-place finishes by Cy-Fair and Cypress Woods high schools, and a fourth-place finish by Langham Creek High School.

More than 220 Texas private and public schools of all sizes were represented at the tournament, held March 1-3 in La Vernia.

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Among Langham Creek High School’s participants at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship was senior Treasure Blackburn (left), who placed fourth as a finalist in Prose, where she performed a selection from The Day the Voices Stopped, a memoir about living with schizophrenia.

Students participated in preliminary rounds of competition in a variety of debate, public speaking and oral interpretation events in front of judges who rated their performances. Those with the most successful results moved forward in the competition, advancing to be among the best of the best in Texas.

Cypress Woods senior Chakra Jonnalagadda placed second in Lincoln-Douglas Debate out of nearly 200 students who competed in the event. The topic was whether or not the United State should provide a universal basic income. Jonnalagadda won 10 straight debate rounds on this topic, flipping between the pro and con sides as assigned.

He finished with the best overall win-loss record of any public school participant.

“Debate has allowed me to meet some of the people who have made the biggest impact in my life all while teaching me how to be a better person,” said Jonnalagadda, who has been on the Cypress Woods debate team since his freshman year.

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Cypress Creek High School senior Collin Goemmer was among five scholarship recipients selected at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship, held March 1-3 in La Vernia. Winners were picked based on overall achievements throughout high school. Goemmer earned a scholarship worth $1,000.

Also in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Cy-Fair senior Tess Welch was named the second place public speaker. Students could earn awards both for their win-loss record based on argumentation strategy and for their presentation quality based on points awarded by the judges for speaking style. Welch earned 148.5 out of 150 total presentation points.

Langham Creek senior Treasure Blackburn placed fourth as a finalist in Prose. In this event, students perform a piece of literature they’ve selected that is appropriate for the genre, bringing to life the characters and theme through their vocal intonations and body language. Blackburn performed a selection from The Day the Voices Stopped, a memoir about living with schizophrenia.

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Cy-Fair High School students represent their campus at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship, held March 1-3 in La Vernia. Senior Tess Welch (front row left) was named the second-place public speaker in Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

“(Speech and debate have) taught me so much from improving my public speaking skills to having more discipline and collaboration with others,” Blackburn said. “My favorite thing about speech and debate is the fact that it can be used as an outlet for my creativity.”

In addition to the competition, TFA also announced annual scholarship winners based on overall achievements throughout high school. Cypress Creek High School senior Collin Goemmer earned $1,000 as one of only five recipients selected this year.

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Cypress Ranch High School students represent their campus at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship, held March 1-3 in La Vernia. Senior Jaime Gutierrez (left) was a quarterfinalist in Impromptu Speaking and Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking.

Students earned qualification to the state tournament by accumulating points for their successes at local meets from September through February. The state’s state championship is recognized as one of the most difficult in the country for speech and debate due to its rigorous process, said Stacy McGee, CFISD humanities curriculum coach.

CFISD had 65 students from 11 high school compete at the state level.

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Cypress Lakes High School students represent their campus at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship, held March 1-3 in La Vernia. Senior Dakota Dennis (back row, left) was a quarterfinalist in Program Oral Interpretation.

Below are CFISD’s further accomplishments:

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Students argue one-on-one on an assigned topic of social and ethical significance. CFISD had three students advance to the top 32 bracket based on win-loss records:

  • Kavya Sethi, Cy-Fair;
  • Tess Welch, Cy-Fair; and
  • Angela Zhong, Cypress Woods.

Public Forum Debate

Students argue with partners on a topic taken from current events. The state topic was over the proper separation of powers regarding the use of military force by the federal government.

  • Hannah Bertinot and Tvisha Malik, Cypress Woods (top 16).

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Cypress Park High School students represent their campus at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship, held March 1-3 in La Vernia. Sophomore Tiffany Damon (right) advanced to the semifinals in the Senate in Congressional Debate.

Congressional Debate

Students participate in a mock legislative session over a variety of current public policy issues. CFISD had five students advance to the semifinals in the Senate (top 48):

  • Upneet Kaur, Cy-Fair;
  • Ryed Qamar, Cypress Creek;
  • David Young, Cypress Lakes;
  • Tiffany Damon, Cypress Park; and
  • Danial Mehkri, Langham Creek.

The following Congress students also were recognized with most outstanding presiding officer awards based on their leadership in their chambers:

  • Ryed Qamar, Cypress Creek – Senate;
  • Saad Shaikh, Cypress Lakes – House of Representatives.

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Cypress Falls High School students were among the many from CFISD who attended and competed at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship, held March 1-3 in La Vernia.

Impromptu Speaking

Students are assigned topics at the competition site on an open array of subjects and given only one minute to prepare a five-minute speech:

  • Evan Ortiz, Cy-Fair – semifinalist; and
  • Jaime Gutierrez, Cypress Ranch – semifinalist.

Informative Speaking

Students present a 10-minute, memorized speech that they have written and use visual aids created to educate the audience on a topic of their choosing:

  • Nhu Bui, Cy-Fair – semifinalist;
  • Aaliyah Black, Cypress Lakes – quarterfinalist; and
  • Samuel Gross, Jersey Village – quarterfinalist.

Original Oratory

Students present a 10-minute memorized speech they have written on a topic of their choice with the purpose of motivating the audience to make a personal or social change:

  • Tammi Kaur, Cypress Ridge – quarterfinalist.

Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking

Students are assigned topics on international affairs at the competition site and given 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute persuasive speech based on their current events knowledge:

  • Jaime Gutierrez, Cypress Ranch – quarterfinalist.

Program Oral Interpretation

Students weave together different genres across fiction and nonfiction for a 10-minute presentation focused on a social issue. The event highlights a student’s dramatic advocacy skills as they choose texts and message around which to craft their performance:

  • Dakota Dennis, Cypress Lakes – quarterfinalist.

Duo Interpretation

Students perform with partners a memorized 10-minute scene from a single piece of literature.

  • Miles Burt and Juan Mendoza, Cypress Creek – quarterfinalists.

Poetry

Students present a seven-minute reading of literature appropriate for the genre:

  • Aliyah Holmes, Cypress Creek – quarterfinalist; and
  • Aaron Deville, Jersey Village – quarterfinalist.

These students are taught by Perry Beard at Cy-Fair, Dustin Kay at Cypress Creek, Miranda Fairman at Cypress Falls, Hannah McCord at Cypress Lakes, Tammi Raley at Cypress Park, Rebecca Demski at Cypress Ranch, Kristi Fitzgerald at Cypress Ridge, Regina Jennings at Jersey Village, and Kristi Goemmer at Langham Creek.

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