Debate Team’s Alex Gracias and Salsabil Mendoza Win First Place During Saturday’s Revere Fall Fest Speech Tournament

Special to the Journal

On Saturday, Oct. 28, Revere High School (RHS) Speech and Debate Team kicked off the 2023–2024 season at RHS with the first regular-season Massachusetts Speech and Debate League tournament.

The tournament, hosted at RHS, featured over 20 schools from across Massachusetts and 230 students competing during the day-long Fall Fest Speech Tournament event.

RHS students and students from the other Massachusetts schools competed in 19 different events, including performance-oriented events. These performance-oriented events included Poetry Reading, Children’s Literature, Dramatic Performances, and public speaking events such as Impromptu, Original Oratory, and Radio Broadcasting.

There were also debate-style events such as Group Discussions and Congressional Debate.

RHS finalists included Alex Gracias, who won First Place in Programmed Oral Interpretation, and Salsabil Mendoza, who won First place in Radio Broadcasting.

Other finalists included Heba Marouane, who placed 4th in Children’s Literature; Dina Oufessa, who placed 4th in Declamation; Mars Marquardo, who placed 6th in Poetry Reading; Susie Nicolas, who placed 4th in Song Soliloquy; and Erta Ismahili, who placed 9th in Student Congress.

Team members Fatima Baoussouh, Adam Oulszenagui, and Leah Zuniga also competed.

The entire team placed 3rd in Big School Sweepstakes—a team record!

Co-Captain and graduating senior Raihan Ahmed was also honored for his four years of dedication to the team.

“The Revere Speech and Debate Team wants to extend its thanks to all the Revere students, teachers, community members, and custodial staff who assisted with our successful Fall Fest tournament opening the 2023-2024 season,” said RHS Speech and Debate Coach James Conway. “Congratulations to our finalists: Erta Ismahili, Heba Marouane, Dina Oufessa, Mars Marquardo, Alex Gracias, Salsabil Mendoza and Susie Nicolas.”

Last year, RHS’s Speech and Debate team competed in the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) in Louisville, Kentucky. The NCFL is a speech and debate league that was formed in 1951 with members from both public and parochial high schools.

This year, students on the team moderated the Revere mayoral debate as a way to become more engaged in the wider community and current affairs.

Conway said it was good to be back hosting tournaments after COVID shut down the 2020–2021 season and the numbers of students participating dwindled in the following seasons during hybrid learning.

“In 2020, we had our last tournament that finished the regular season, and then lockdown happened,” said Conway. “The league decided to cancel the following season. Then, the season after that was online, which was awful. So many of our kids didn’t necessarily have the best internet access at home or the best set-up to compete for 12 hours.”

In person resumed and the team has grown back to where it was pre-pandemic, according to Conway.

“We have close to two dozen kids actively participating in one way or another with the team,” said Conway. “The kids are really into it. It gives them confidence for things like public speaking, which is a great skill to have. What’s cool, now that I’ve been doing it for almost five years, is seeing the waves of kids come through.”

“One of our graduates, a junior at Wesleyan, is basically running the campaign of a political candidate,” said Conway. “She got her skills here, participating in Speech and Debate, Student Congress, doing group discussions, and even doing some acting events. So, it’s great to see that.”

Conway said the team plans to compete in the NCFL’s tournament in Chicago again this year.

The final results of the tournament were:

1. Catholic Memorial School

2. Shrewsbury High School

3. Revere High School

4. Walpole High School

5. Milton Academy

6. Bancroft

7. Newton South High School

8. Xaverian Brothers High School

9. Arlington High School

10. Brookline High School

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