Think of Speech and Debate, and competition comes to mind. However, the National Speech and Debate Association encourages students to take the skills they learn through competition and to use them for community service. With service as a core value, the NSDA seeks to "empower students through Speech and Debate."
Students earn NSDA points each time they compete, bringing them increasing levels of honor. The NSDA also allows students to earn service points. Students can earn points for doing morning announcements, lectoring in Church, emceeing Boy Scout events, acting in school and community theater, volunteering to judge at tournaments, and other service-oriented speeches. This past year graduates Paul Caruso and Brett Dobert, as well as Seniors Michael Bellia and Michael Santos and junior James Cullen, were awarded the National Speech and Debate Speaking and Service Award for their speeches, five of only 60 students who earned this honor.
Michael Santos, '21 started a program, Challenger Sports, to expose special needs children to sports. Michael, a member of Chaminade's soccer team, knows the value of sports and enjoys sharing his talents. Organizing the program required Michael to speak to countless adults, both for financial support and for volunteers. Michael was able to make these speeches because of the skill he learned in Speech and Debate. Even with the pandemic, Michael was able to keep the program going. As Michael said, "Organizing the Challenger Sports program for special needs children via Zoom was difficult, but the confidence that I gained through my participation in speech and debate and Brother John's guidance enabled me to continue the program amid the pandemic."
Michael Bellia '21 and James Cullen '22 have been a mainstay on morning announcements. Many mornings, students and teachers have heard Michael and James lead the school in prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance and then learn what is going on in the school that day. When not doing morning announcements, Michael has put his speaking skills to use in Catholics for Life, fearlessly announcing the pro-life message. As Michael said, "My participation in Speech and Debate has given me the tools to express my convictions." James has been a leader in his Boy Scout troop, teaching others and emceeing Courts of Honor for scouts and parents. As James said, "Debate has helped me be capable of using my words to help people around me. Whether it be at Chaminade or local scout meetings, there's always something that can be said to contribute to everyone's growth."
Bro. John McGrory, Chaminade's Speech and Debate moderator, encourages students to report their speaking experience outside of school. "I want to recognize the students for their good works. It also helps me to get to know the students. I have learned so much about the students by learning what interests them. It also helps me help them to write their speeches. I teach students to speak about what interests them. Their service activities provide me with insight into their interests."
Chaminade High School is grateful that the National Speech and Debate Association encourages and rewards students for their communities' contributions.