Highland ISD debate team heads to State competition

Highland ISD has qualified four students for the 2013-2014 UIL State Cross-Examination Debate Meet to be held on March 10-11 at the University of Texas in Austin.Qualifiers include First place winners, Junior Teammates Taylar Hammond and Kevin Pantoja; and second place winners, Freshmen Teammates Kellse Cornett and Cheyanna Petty.The students qualified for the state meet by placing first (Pantoja and Hammond) and second (Cornett and Petty) at the UIL Cross-Examination District Meet held at Highland on Jan. 27. Prior to competing in the district meet, both teams competed in three tournaments in which numerous medals were earned including third overall for Pantoja and Hammond at the Morton High School Tournament on Nov. 2, fifth overall for Cornett and Petty at the Groesbeck Ibex Speech and Debate Invitational on Nov. 9, and second overall for Cornett and Petty at the Pied Pieper Tournament on Jan. 11.This is the first year that Highland has had a debate team in the last five years, according to Debate Coach Leigh Petty. This is her first year to coach debate and the first year that the four students have competed in debate.“Ms. Petty was talking about starting a debate team at the end of last year. I looked it up and saw that it was a great opportunity and decided to join the team this year,” said Kevin Pantoja.Taylar Hammond says that she joined the team because a friend of hers was in debate and loved it. “I decided to join and it is just as great as I thought it was going to be.”“There are so many great advantages to being on a debate team,” says Coach Petty. “Not only are there scholarship opportunities, but you have to learn how to research and compose opinions in an intelligent manner, as they have to be research and evidence based.”Mrs. Petty applauds the students for their efforts, as there is no debate class at Highland ISD. “These dedicated students practice outside of school and on weekends to prepare for competitions on top of their other activities such as track, basketball and stock shows. These students are very active on several different activities in school.”The students say that they were nervous going into the competitions, as they were going up against teams that have been debating for years. “We were nervous going against seasoned teams, but at the same time, we also learned so much from those debaters,” said Cheyanna Petty.“UIL debate competition motivates students and provides them with practical application for the skills they are developing,” said Jana Riggins, UIL State Debate Director. “This year’s debate topic allowed students the opportunity to research and form their own thoughts and opinions on the real-world problem of the United States’ economic engagement with Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.”Through participation at the UIL Academic State Meet, students qualify for Texas Interscholastic League Foundation scholarships. Since its inception in 1959, the TILF has provided more than $27 million to more than 18,000 students. This year TILF expects to award an estimated 600 new and renewed grants, valued at more than $1 million. Grants and donations from foundations and individuals have funded these academic scholarships. One hundred percent of each dollar TILF receives goes directly for scholarships, with no administrative or other expenses being deducted.