On Saturday, May 10th, the Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) hosted the North Star Academy’s speech and debate team for a day of competition, workshops, and collaboration. The Newark high school recently started their team, which has tried many debate and speech events this season. The contingent that attended this event was comprised almost entirely of first-years and sophomores. This is one of several collaborations with high schools that RUDU has done, after public debate exhibitions at Trenton Central High School and at Point Pleasant Borough High School.
Kurt Falk, a member of RUDU from 2011-2012, is the Assistant Coach of the North Star Academy team and helped coordinate the event. The team’s Head Coach, Jessica Ehmke, was also in attendance. They were supported by numerous current and former RUDU members who helped run the event and served as judges of the speech competition.
The competition itself consisted of short 2-4 minute speeches that the North Star students had prepared and memorized for the event. All were on the topic of a key problem facing society, as chosen by the speaker. There were several preliminary rounds, followed by a break to semifinals (12 speakers) and then finals (6 speakers), resulting in awards for the top three.
Throughout the day, rounds of competition were interspersed with a speaking workshop run by Coach Storey Clayton, a demonstration round of parliamentary debate featuring four current and former RUDU debaters (said to be the favorite event by North Star attendees), and a presentation on Rutgers University by a student representative from the Admissions program. Judges also gave rigorous and extensive feedback to each speaker after each speech they delivered.
While all competitors spoke well and improved greatly throughout the day, the winners were selected by an aggregate vote of the 9-judge panel, one that featured three APDA National Finalists. Rebecca Davis was awarded 1st Place, Akira Caruth 2nd, and Andrea Hammond 3rd.
Ultimately, the event was a great opportunity for North Star students to visit a college campus and see the inner workings of a highly successful collegiate debate team while improving their skills and having fun.