Cy Lakes’ First-Place Award Highlights TFA State Championship

Cypress, TX (March 23, 2016) CFISD students had a strong showing at the Texas Forensic Association State Championship for speech and debate, including a first-place finish by Cypress Lakes High School.

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Pictured from left: Monica Godinez, Zahra Ali, Emerald Stephens, Cecilia Vera, Gary Talor and Jarron Vergin; Pictured from left: Daniel Lehmann, Colin Price, Avneet Randhawa, Lauren Peters and Collin Goemmer.

About 220 Texas private and public schools of all sizes, from 1A to 6A, were represented at the tournament, held in Austin March 10-12.

Students participated in preliminary rounds of competition in a variety of speech and debate events in front of judges who evaluated their performances for both content and style. Those with the most successful results moved forward to elimination, advancing to be among the best of the best in Texas.

Cypress Lakes senior Julie Jeukeng beat out the competition to be named the 2016 Texas state champion in Poetry Interpretation and earned a $500 college scholarship for her accomplishment. Jeukeng performed a selection of poems about the experiences of being an African immigrant. Her speech & debate coach, Miranda McDonald, said the piece had personal significance for Jeukeng, who moved to the United States from Cameroon, Africa, when she was 8 years old.

In discussing her performance, Jeukeng said: “I have a strong connection to it because it is similar to my story. When I first came to America, I dealt with the shock of not only such a different culture but also discrimination. I was able to overcome these struggles.”

Jeukeng continued about her experience at the state tournament: “Meeting new people, creating unforgettable memories, winning a grand prize for the first time and making my team proud are some things I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Cy-Fair senior Cameron McConway also placed third in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, and Jersey Village senior Hannah Wisterman was a finalist in Original Oration, placing sixth.  Students in Lincoln-Douglas Debate were asked to discuss whether or not the United States should promote democracy in the Middle East. McConway, who is coached by debate teacher Perry Beard, had to research and prepare both the pro and con sides of the issue. She was the only public school student in Texas to reach the semifinals of this event as the other competitors advancing to this level were all from private schools.

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Cy-Fair HS students Maddie Beard and Cameron McConway

In Original Oration, students presented a memorize 10-minute motivational speech on a topic of their choice. Wisterman’s speech addressed the problem of emotional invalidation, which her debate teacher Regina Jennings explained is when people’s feelings are not accepted for what they are but instead judged, ignored and rejected.

Students earned qualification to this tournament by accumulating points for their successes at local meets from September through February. Due to its rigorous qualification process, the Texas state championship is recognized as one of the most difficult in the country for speech and debate, said Stacy Thomas, CFISD humanities curriculum coach. CFISD had 59 students from eight high schools earn qualification.

In addition to providing scholarships to the state champion in each event, the Texas Forensic Association also gives annual scholarships to speech and debate students based on their overall achievements throughout high school.  Recipients were announced at the tournament’s awards ceremony, and two of the four students selected this year for $1,000 scholarships were from CFISD—Gary Talor of Cypress Springs and Ian Ethridge of Cypress Lakes.

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Jersey Village HS students: Jessica Hulett, Demi Navarro, Noah Kopesky, Neerali Shah, Hannah Wisterman and Justin Meun, and Patricia Weir

Below are CFISD’s further accomplishments at the state tournament:

Debate Events

Lincoln Douglas Debate (Students argue one-on-one on an assigned topic of social and ethical significance.)

  • Lucas Clarke, Cypress Woods – top 16;
  • Tess Welch, Cy-Fair – top 32; and
  • Karman Singh, Cypress Falls – top 32.

Placement in Lincoln-Douglas Debate is by win-loss record based on which students advanced the strongest arguments, but awards are also given for best speaking determined by presentation points given by the judges. Karman Singh earned the sixth-place speaking award, and Cameron McConway received eighth place for speaking.

Congressional Debate (Students participate in a mock legislative session over a variety of current public policy issues.)

  • Humi-Rooth Jackson, Cypress Falls – top 30 in the Senate;
  • Suraj Vodnala, Cypress Woods – top 30 in the Senate; and
  • Gary Talor, Cypress Springs – received an Outstanding Presiding Officer award for his chamber leadership in the House.

Speech Events

For all the speaking events that follow, students reaching semifinals have placed in the top 20.  Students reaching quarterfinals have placed in the top 40.

Poetry Interpretation (Students present a 7-minute literature performance of works they have chosen appropriate for the genre.)

  • Lauren Peters, Cypress Creek – semifinalist; and
  • Maddie Beard, Cy-Fair – semifinalist.

Original Oration (Students write and present a 10-minute, memorized speech on a topic they have chosen.)

  • Mohammad Habib, Langham Creek – semifinalist; and
  • Avneet Randhawa, Cypress Creek – quarterfinalist.

Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking (Students are assigned topics on international relations at the competition site and given 30 minutes to prepare a 7-minute speech based on their current events knowledge.)

  • Daniel Lehmann, Cypress Creek – semifinalist.

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Pictured: Hannah Wisterman; Cy Falls HS students: Tashmee Love, Humi-Rooth Jackson, Hamza Kazzaz, Alison Yarto, Karman Singh, Sohail Khan, Phillip Koether, and Hubbul Rizvi.

In addition to the debate coaches already mentioned, these students are taught by Ryan Powers at Cypress Creek, Debbie Waddell at Cypress Falls, Tammi Raley at Cypress Springs, Lillian Adeyemi at Cypress Woods and Kristi Goemmer at Langham Creek.

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Langham Creek HS students: Sameer Abdali, Cortex Johnson, Mohammad Habib, Asad Mekhri and Danial Mekhri; Cypress Lakes High School student Julie Jeukeng, pictured with speech and debate coach Miranda McDonald
Courtesy of the District