Mead High School Speech and Debate team holds inaugural after school Congress


Aiden Owen

Members of both the Speech and Debate team as well as the class sign in to the Congress event after school from previous 2017-2018 season.

Lucas Hale, Editor

Mead High’s Speech and Debate team made history January 17th, hosting our first after school Student Congress. This is an emulation of an actual congressional hearing were students propose bills, give speeches affirming or contending the passing of the bill, and Congress ends with students voting on whether the bill will pass or not.

You’ve seen Schoolhouse Rock, you get it. Although the event itself was a success, there was a bit of dissent. As Senior and Congressional Presiding Officer Thomas Malais put it, “Speech and Debate is powerful, it brings out both the best and worst in people.” A coach from another local school was chosen to be a judge in the competition. As the night progressed, numerous students commented upon the judge’s inappropriate behavior and generally disrespectful demeanor.

Coach Kathy Oackes organizes judges’ ballots in what is known as the “tab room”.

Senior Jovan Chavez went as far as to leave the room in the middle of congress due to what he perceived as the Judge’s attitude. When I had a chance to speak with Jovan, we barely spoke about the incident and instead he took the chance to discuss the speech and debate class. He mentioned that although the judging seemed askew, among students there was a general air of camaraderie.

Students from each school would mingle and interact without a trace of malice. Speaking on his own experience in speech and debate Jovan described it as something almost life changing. “Before this class,” he told me “I would be nervous just talking in front of class, I would never be someone who would stand up for myself and my classmates. Speech and debate really helps you get used to speaking openly in a classroom setting.”

Sophomore Will Brown, Freshman Bailee Bebernes, and Sophomore Breanna Encinas take notes during their session.

This was sophomore Will Brown’s first congress and he was awarded Excellent Speaker, the night’s second highest honor. Will said that when he first started speech and debate there was a learning curve, but he has obviously caught up. I asked Will why he thinks he was chosen as excellent speaker and he told me, “I knew I did my best, but I was actually surprised. But I think I was chosen because I gave two speeches on opposing sides.” Will’s ability to understand both sides of the argument show his versatility as a speaker and his understanding of Speech and Debate.

This was not Senior Thomas Malais’ first congress, in fact he was chosen as the Presiding Officer of his Congress. Which means he lead the Congress, and also that it is accepted that he has a firm understanding of Speech and Debate and its rules. Thomas was not in the same Congress as our confrontational Judge, his experience was almost completely different.


Seniors Thomas Malais and DeVante Sissenstein participate in their chamber of Congress.

Friday, following the congress, the speech and debate class held a debriefing. Ms. Hedlun, the teacher of the speech and debate class, discussed the successes and difficulties of the previous night’s event. There was negativity, it’s undeniable, but in that room there was also a great amount of love and support. The thing I heard most often was, “speech and debate is like a family.” Everyone I interviewed had the exact same thing about speech and debate, if you think you may be interested then get involved.

The Speech & Debate team meets every Monday and Thursday in D123.