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Speech and debate students head to nationals

Each year the students in the journalism program at PHS finish the course by writing press releases. The class partners with the Princeton Herald to publish the stories. These are also featured on the district website under Latest Headlines. This article is written by Molly Halupka.

Roets, center, and Malhas, right, celebrate with fellow speech student Tayler Dougherty. The Princeton High School debate team is going back to nationals for the 17th consecutive year. The students will travel to Birmingham, Ala., June 18-23 to compete through the National Speech and Debate Association, the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle, high school and college students in the nation.

“I was excited to find out we qualified for nationals,” said recent PHS grad Michael J. Roets Jr., who was also a state champion speech student this year. “It was my senior year, and I would have been upset if I didn't qualify.”

Roets will be joined at nationals by incoming junior Chris Malhas and incoming seniors Ron Long and Khalil Miles, who are all competing in different events.

Roets will compete in LD debate, and Malhas will compete in World School debate, with contestants competing against students from other countries. Both Long and Miles will be in speaking events – Long in U.S. extemp and Miles in oral interpretation.

“I was nervous, because it was my first time competing at this level,” Malhas said of qualifying for nationals.

According to the national qualifiers, the experience the students receive through the speech and debate program is not just used in the competition but in the classroom, where they apply their knowledge from competing to benefit their everyday lives.

“It has made me more confident in interviews and presentations,” Roets said.

The students in debate say they have worked hard and sacrificed their personal time to study and work toward this achievement.

The debate kids joined the program for a variety of reasons, including peer pressure to join.

“I competed in a lot of academic events, but I always hung out with a lot of the debaters so I decided to join,” Malhas said.

Malhas, Dougherty, Roets. Although competition usually comes with a degree of nervousness, these debaters say they are confident going into competition.

“I’m not nervous going into these contests because I have been to a lot of competitions so it's really become natural,” said Roets, who has earned numerous scholarships for his speech and debate talents and was recruited by a top liberal arts school, Simpson College.

In addition to the students, debate coach Jimmy Smith is being recognized by the National Speech and Debate Association for the fourth time with the Distinguished Service Award. Since the honor society was created in 1925, Smith is one of only 22 coaches from thousands to earn this remarkable honor.

“Jimmy is a leader in the speech and debate community in the state of Texas and across the country,” said J. Scott Wunn, executive director. “His achievement of 170 citations reflects an outstanding commitment to the service of others. 

The founder of the National Speech and Debate Association, formerly the National Forensic League, initiated the Distinguished Service Award in 1925 to recognize coaches who serve the association by sponsoring new chapters, serving as a district or national officer, hosting or managing tournaments and promoting speech and debate education.

“Service is one of the tenets of our Honor Code,” Wunn said. “By choosing to devote his talents to others, Jimmy truly demonstrates the spirit of our organization at its finest.”