Others listen attentively as a student presents their side's argument in the mock debate. Photo by Emanuelle Oliveira.

Emmanuelle Oliveria also contributed to this article.

The Speech and Debate club has been thriving at Malden High School for seven years now under the wing of advisor Kurtis Scheer. Beginning this school year, both returning and new members highly anticipate the new debate season to be filled with competition, argumentation, dramatic performance and, as Scheer put it, “a lot of fun.” 

Meetings are held every Tuesday in classroom H408. Usually, they consist of preparation for upcoming tournaments and in-class mock tournaments where all club members are encouraged to participate.

So far, the club experienced good attendance in this year’s first meetings with 15-25 members of which many were fresh faces. Among them was sophomore Sophie LeBlanc, who signed up for the club through the activities fair, seeking to improve her “public speaking, [which is a] really good skill to have that can transfer into academics.” 

LeBlanc also believed that “going to tournaments is a big network opportunity as you get to meet all these different people from all these different high schools in Massachusetts [as well as] get to know other people with similar interests and maybe make some friends.”

Students discuss among each other in a mock debate concerning "hot dogs vs. sandwiches." Photo by Emanuelle Oliveira.

Junior Alejandra Fernandez joined this year to also improve her public speaking skills, as well as her English speaking fluency. She found Speech and Debate to be “the closest thing to Model UN as a club” and, similar to LeBlanc, is enthusiastic about partaking in future debate tournaments and reaching out to other fellow debaters.

Senior Michelle Dang confirmed these experiences from her four years in the Speech and Debate Club: “More than anything, I wish for our new team members to experience the same joy and belonging I experienced at my first tournaments,” she said.

Now in her second year as vice president, “I want to actively cultivate the future of the team and contribute back to the community that had changed my life in freshman year by assuming [this role],” Dang shared.

With both new and returning members in mind, Scheer found it “really great how it grew from two students and one advisor whom they approached seven years ago into this amazing team.” 

Dang echoed his sentiment, expressing that “the new members' high passion and energy is what sets this group apart from previous years.” 

As both Scheer and club president Saura Rathore want such growth to persist throughout the school year, gaining recruitments remains on top of their agenda. “We want to attract new members that are interested in improving their debate, public speaking and competitive acting skills, and maybe want to find a club that speaks to them that differs from some of the other ones. The atmosphere we offer here is more like a team rather than a regular club, so it’s for those who have a good feel for that,” Scheer explained.

Rathore was among the many members throughout the years intrigued by what the club offered. “Ever since I was young—five, six years old—both of my parents were into public speaking and encouraged me to . . . speak at school events,” she shared. She knew from there she wanted to continue pursuing speech and debate in high school. 

Now a senior, marking this year as her fourth in doing speech and debate and her second as the club’s president, she plans to pursue her goals and tackle any obstacles that entail her leadership. 

Vice President Michelle Dang discusses the day's meeting agenda and the upcoming novice tournament and fundraisers. Photo by Emanuelle Oliveira.

Scheer emphasized one challenge regarding competition in debate tournaments: “Some of the schools we compete against have speech and debate as a class. While our team just meets one Tuesday a week and maybe a Flex block, these other schools practice speech and debate all week in class like they would math in math class.” 

With this in mind, one of Rathore’s ambitions for the year is to form the club into “an actual class” in order to facilitate participation in speech and debate for students with other after-school commitments. 

Rathore understood that it was “hard to get back into the groove of speech and debate again,” especially with repercussions from the pandemic and a lack of funding in the previous year. Yet still, Scheer felt that “this hasn’t seemed to stop us here as well. We only keep pushing forward.”

Such determination had worked well in their favor, as Speech and Debate members “over the years placed in the top five of the state for poetry reading, group discussion, declamation, and original oratory,” stated Scheer. “At the end of the season, we go and compete in the state finals where everybody throughout the year gets either first, second, or third place in any competition. Our students all get together there and compete for the best of the best.”

As the competitions advance in rank, Scheer explained that “more and more people can come watch each different round. But for the most part, it’s mostly the competitors and judges who see what’s going on; it’s not like in the movies with an auditorium full of hundreds of people--that happens at the state finals!”

Now with the new school year ahead, the Speech and Debate club is already in preparation for an upcoming tournament. On October 22nd, there will be a classroom novice tournament where students who have never competed in debate but want to give it a shot can sign up for this competition and experience what it’s like in the main tournaments.” Instead of rankings, debaters will receive “encouraging comments back on what they can do to improve their debate.” 

Ultimately, the club appears to be quickly recovering well from past difficulties and will only continue to grow.

Students and staff were also able to enjoy a treat while supporting the Speech and Debate club. Recently, a bake sale fundraiser was held after school where club members sold LeBlanc’s homemade snickerdoodle cookies along with other sweets from twenty-five cents to a dollar each. With this fundraiser’s major success, club members ensure there will be more--keep a lookout for them!

Math teacher Mx. Page purchases a cookie to support the Speech and Debate Club bake sale. Photo by Lily Nguyen.

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