Speaking for success


Members of the Speech and Debate team compete at the January event. Courtesy of Arielle Kirven ’17

The Convent of the Sacred Heart Speech and Debate team competed April 9 and 10 with 1,140 contestants from across New York at the New York State Forensics League Championship Tournament (NYSFL). Junior Arielle Kirven competed in varsity Extemporaneous Speaking, junior Ava Vanech competed in varsity Oral Interpretation, and juniors Kiki Ventura and Morgan Johnson and sophomore Kate Ruberti competed in Student Congress.
In addition to the state championship, the team also participated in local tournaments throughout the school year. Kate and sophomore Tiara McIntosh competed in Student Congress, while Arielle competed in varsity Extemporaneous Speaking February 26 and 27 at the New York Catholic Forensics League (NYCFL) Regionals Tournament at Iona Preparatory School. Kate finished in third place and Tiara finished in sixth place. Arielle placed second.

Members of the Speech and Debate team compete at the January event. Courtesy of Arielle Kirven '17
Freshman Laura Ferrucci, senior Izzy Sio,  freshman Grace Sanko, junior Arielle Kirven, senior Nebai Hernandez, freshman Meredith Wilson, junior Kelsey Donovan, and sophomore Tiara McIntosh competed at the March event. Courtesy of Arielle Kirven ’17

The NYSFL Championship Tournament invites the competitors who have qualified throughout the season to attend and compete. Individual competitors recieve awards at local tournaments throughout the year, and must earn two half-qualifications in order to compete in the state-wide tournament.
As a result of their successful performances at Iona Prep, Kate and Arielle both qualified for the New York State Tournament, joining Morgan and Ava, who qualified at the Father Rippon Memorial tournament at Regis High School and Loyola School. Kiki attended the championship tournament as a wildcard.

In the final regular season tournament Saturday, March 5 at the Bronx Preparatory Democracy Charter School, Arielle finished in second place in varsity Extemporaneous Speaking, junior Kelsey Donovan finished in ninth place in varsity Oral Interpretation, Tiara finished in sixth place in Student Congress, freshman Meredith Wilson finished in tenth place in junior varsity Oral Interpretation, freshman Laura Ferrucci finished in twelfth place in junior varsity Oral Interpretation, and freshman Grace Sanko took seventh place in Student Congress.
Seniors Izzy Sio and Nebai Hernandez judged the junior varsity competitions during the March tournament.
Speech and debate are two separate categories of the competition that each include sub-categories. Sacred Heart members compete in Student Congress, Duo Interpretation, Oral Interpretation, and Extemporaneous Speaking.
Student Congress is a form of debate where students take on a position as a senator. Senators write speeches based on a mock-bill of a current event and give their own stance. Senators debate domestic and international topics. Judges evaluate the senator’s performance, style, and content during the session of debate.
For Extemporaneous Speaking, students update themselves on current events to prepare to give a seven minute speech on a topic assigned the day of the tournament. Oral Interpretation contestants study, analyze, and perform different forms of literature and written compositions.
Each member competes individually and her results are put into an overall team performance score. In Congress, there can be multiple students from the same school debating in the same chamber. However, for categories such as Duo Interpretation, two students form a team to prepare a piece. There is an award for the team with the most points at the end of the competition.
Normally, ten to 20 schools compete and 150 to 500 students attend a tournament. The local tournaments are a component of the NYCFL. Private and public schools in the New York City area host these events.
The Sacred Heart Speech and Debate team competes against a number of schools in Westchester, the Bronx, and Manhattan, including Iona Prep, Fordham Preparatory School, Xavier High School, Regis High School, Scarsdale High School, Ursuline School, Pelham Memorial High School and The Bronx High School of Science. According to Kate, the team’s biggest competition is Regis High School and the Bronx High School of Science.
Mr. Joseph Valentine, Upper School History Teacher and moderator of the Speech and Debate team, stresses the importance of poise and tenacity during these high-pressure events.
“Be aggressive and confident. And make sure your voice is heard,” Mr. Valentine said.
A student normally only competes in one category per tournament. However, due to the size of the state championship tournament, it was possible for a student to qualify and enter in multiple divisions.
Tournaments usually last for eight to ten hours, beginning at 9:00 a.m. and ending at 6:00 p.m. Preliminary rounds of Student Congress usually last from one to two hours, depending on the number of students participating. Then, another hour of debate occurs if a student breaks to the final round.
In a regular season tournament, depending on the number of competitors in each field, the top eight to twelve receive an award. The top three to six receive qualifications for the state tournament.
The Speech and Debate team meets Day 3 at break where they discuss important information relating to the team. Izzy Sio is the president of the Speech and Debate team, alongside Secretary Arielle Kirven, Speech captain Morgan Johnson and Congress captains Kiki Ventura and Maeve Hogan.
Students do most of the preparation on their own. However, the captains of the team are available to help other members in practicing and preparing their speeches.
“It takes a lot of time to research and find the right information and sources for your stance. Moreover, thorough research not only helps me write my speeches, but helps my better understanding of the topic,” Kate said. “Having a solid foundation of the topic up for debate is important because other senators question an opponent’s stance, opinion and sources. Being able to answer the questions that the senators ask shows the judges that you are prepared and truly understand the topic.”
 – Mae Briody, Staff Writer