Three Evans High School teens have won a chance to compete in the National Forensics League National Speech and Debate Tournament, and another Evans student will compete this weekend to qualify for the contest.
Austin Floyd, Amanda Black and Ebony Small qualified last month during a regional tournament in Atlanta to compete at the tournament in June in Kansas City, Mo.
Outside of Atlanta, Evans High is one of the few Georgia schools to sponsor a debate and forensics team. With debate, competitors mostly compete with each other on political issues, delivering arguments and counter-arguments. Forensics encompasses a much wider range of speech competitions that are akin to solo dramatic performances.
That's why Amanda, a senior, was first attracted to her school's forensics team.
"I had been involved with drama, but this gave me a chance to do a different kind of performing," she said "That's what I see this as, a performance."
Amanda was first runner-up for humorous interpretation in the qualifying event. She was eclipsed only by her teammate, Austin.
Austin said forensics gave him self-confidence.
"I've lost 40 pounds since joining this team," he said. "Forensics made me unafraid to be seen, or to be heard."
Senior Ebony Small was first runner-up in dramatic interpretation.
"Mine was about a girl seeing a therapist, and the love and trust issues she develops due to an abusive father and a wimpy mother," Small said.
Possibly joining Amanda, Austin and Ebony in Kansas City is senior Brandon Mecikalski, who is a traditional debater. He will compete this weekend to qualify for nationals.
Brandon has been given the nickname "The Instigator" by his teammates for the controversial topics he tends to choose for competition. Such topics include taxing churches like companies and arguing for legalizing certain forms of torture during interrogations of terrorists.
"I don't necessarily believe in the things I'm debating about, but I like to look at all sides of the issue," he said. "I like to challenge people's beliefs."
Evans High has the eighth-ranked forensics team in the state. The seven schools ahead of it all are in Atlanta, and nearly all come from private or magnet schools with benefactors supporting them, said English teacher and speech coach Elizabeth Brooks.
Such is not the case in Evans, Brooks said.
"Up until this year, we didn't even have a debate class," Brooks said. "We always had to practice after school and on weekends. These kids also give up a lot of their weekends to travel to tournaments, mostly in Atlanta, or for fundraisers to keep the program going."
Much of the travel is accommodated by debate coach Steven Hahn, who uses his motor home to drive his team to tournaments.
Though the Columbia County Board of Education recently agreed to provide the team with travel expenses to Kansas City, it still must raise money for meals and hotel expenses.
Anyone interested in helping should contact Evans High School at (706) 863-1198.
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