Students receive national speech and debate acclaim

Recognized by Garland ISD’s Board of Trustees May 8, seven exceptional students representing Garland, Rowlett and Sachse high schools have earned national acclaim this year for success at oratorical and speech and debate competitions.

Up first is Rowlett High School freshman Paige Shaneck. This is not only her first year at RHS but also her first year in GISD. She transferred to the district from a charter school and says she enjoys the additional elective opportunities—one of which is speech and debate. Participating in six competitions this school year, Shaneck won approximately $4,500 in college scholarships. She also recently ended her competition season as one of just 53 high schoolers nationwide, and the only representative from Texas, to advance to The American Legion’s 2018 National Oratorical Contest. Shaneck’s teacher, Candace Garrard, describes her as an exceptionally gifted student with a passion for reading literary works of art. She also says Shaneck exudes confidence in her presentation skills and has an unbelievable work ethic when preparing for competitions.

Four more honorees are all members of Garland High School Speech and Debate. Each one qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association’s National Tournament, which breaks the campus’s previous record for the most number of qualifiers in one year. This month, senior Bethany Bass and juniors Trevor Stewart, Benjamin Varnan and Khoa Pham all traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to compete against hundreds of students from across the United States. Bass is the co-president of Garland’s Speech and Debate. She is also the school’s first student to qualify for nationals in the Program Oral Interpretation category. Her teammates Varnan and Stewart both qualified in the duo acting category. They have been partners since the eighth grade and boast multiple previous national competition appearances. Lastly, Pham has been selected to the prestigious World Schools Debate Team that will represent the Lone Star District at nationals. This is a first for GHS, and one that teacher Lory Stewart credits to Pham’s stellar debate record over the past year. He is also Garland’s first nationally ranked debater at No. 43. Pham is co-president along with Bass.

The final two students are also national qualifiers. They made campus history as the first to achieve this feat at Sachse High School. Junior Lucas Sanders and senior Hannah Smith both qualified for nationals in the Duo Interpretation category. According to teacher Chris Smith, the pair faced 12 rounds of competition in Florida as they acted out a selection from the musical Fun Home by Lisa Kron. Smith also said that qualifying for nationals means Sanders and Smith are regarded among the top 10 percent in the nation for their particular category. Both are members of Sachse’s theater department, which provides extra preparation.