Forensic Speech Team Compete at Local and State Championships and Talk Their Way to Nationals


Photo by Neil Schliefer

(l to r) Freshmen Isaac Blackburn and Sophia Leung, and junior Henry Driesen celebrate their success at the NY State Championship.

Bernadette Russo, Sophomore

While public speaking is one of the most common fears, the Pelham Forensic Speech Team revels in orating in front of a crowd. At the March 17 Grand Tournament hosted by Stuyvesant High School, the Pelican team earned a 6th place team trophy, with several team members earning individual accolades. At the Grand National Championship Tournament, junior Henry Driesen and freshman Sophia Leung both earned slots to nationals. Additionally, senior Angelina Rosa was awarded the Sr. Raimonde Scholarship, a $1000 award given to a student that best displays dedication, leadership, and growth over their high school career. Rosa also placed as a semi-finalist in Congressional Debate, along with three other semifinalists: junior Violet Massie-Vereker in Original Oratory, junior Ben Glickman in Extemporaneous Speaking, and sophomore Nick Lieggi in Congressional Debate.

The team had a strong showing at the NY State Championship, held at Hofstra University on April 28 and 29. Semifinalists included freshman Isaac Blackburn in Congressional Debate, who ranked 17th in the state, and freshman Sophia Leung in Declamation, ranked 12th in the state. Junior Henry Driesen, a Quarterfinalist, ranked 14th in the state in Varsity Extemporaneous speaking.

Leung said, “It’s really cool to meet people from other schools. It was amazing to advance so far when I really didn’t have that much experience. I surprised myself. You go into it thinking you’re not really going to be listening to other speakers, but you come out actually having learned really imporant lessons.”

The club is run by PMHS English teachers Mr. Beck and Mr. Schleifer.

“Thanks to the skills I learned during speech, and thanks to the support of my teammates, Mr. Beck, and Mr. Schleifer, I can now speak in class, and in public with more confidence,” Lieggi said.