A Photo of Har-Ber High School Speech and Debate Students

Har-Ber High School students have qualified to compete in the largest academic speech and debate tournament in the world.

Twenty-six Har-Ber students competed virtually in the Arkansas District Tournament from Feb. 24-27 against 18 other state schools, said Joel Brown, Har-Ber High School debate and oral communications teacher. Some 217 total students participated in the event.

The team won first place overall for the Arkansas District and had several students qualify to compete in the National Speech and Debate Tournament from June 12-17 in Louisville, Ky., he said.

"These students work so hard all year long, and this really is one of the crowning moments they get to have all year," Brown said.

Team members who will be competing in nationals include:

  • Colby Gainer, Senior
  • Mackenzie Brown, Senior
  • Gerson Melton, Senior
  • Knox Graham, Junior
  • Richard Largaespada, Junior
  • Emily Freeman, Sophomore
  • Megan Lucas, Junior
  • Luke Lightner, Junior
  • Nora Shitandi, Sophomore

Finals alternates include:

  • Alea Billingsley, Senior
  • Emily Taylor, Junior
  • Tommie Carnahan, Junior
  • Natalia Ruiz, Junior
  • Nora Shitandi, Sophomore

The National Speech and Debate Tournament has elevated public speaking since 1931, according to the National Speech and Debate Association website. Every summer, more than 6,000 middle and high school students travel to the largest academic speech and debate competition in the world to debate current events, voice their views and share their stories.

After months of preparation, rigorous qualifying tournaments and five days of of competing at the national competition, the best of the best will be crowned champions in front of a live audience of thousands and tens of thousands more streaming the event online.

National Speech and Debate Tournament participants will compete for $50,000 in cash and scholarship prizes.