Home of 2011-12 Florida Forensic League State Debate Coach of the Year Paul L. Gaba
Home of National Forensic League / National Speech & Debate Association Hall of Fame Debate Coach Barbara Dale Lauder McCall
Home of 2016 Florida Forensic League Administrator of the Year Mario Crocetti
I have been blessed to be a part of the world of speech and debate since it was asked of me by my administration at South Fork High School in 2000. Over the past 18 years (and it really doesn't seem that long most of the time) I've experienced many highs, a few lows, and a brief moment or two of pondering the insanity defense as a legitimate motion.
To talk about the pride this year's National Speech & Debate national championship tournament, as well as the National Catholic Forensic League nationals in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago, has provided me as a coach and a member of the human race is an injustice to discussion of pride. To recognize what seniors Bennett Aikey, Brandon Schloss, and Chris Slaughter, as well as juniors Zachary Jacobson, Michael Bole, and Natalie Navarrete, have achieved the past month is beyond amazing.
I'll start with Zachary, who has represented Wellington at three CatNats and three NSDA nats. To the best of my knowledge, no Wellington debater has ever achieved four CatNats (Barbara Dale Lauder McCall would know better); I am fully aware four NSDA nationals has never been achieved by a member of Red Dawn Debate. He is on the cusp of unchartered territory, and his senior year will be filled with great opportunities heading into Milwaukee and Dallas.
Bennett is the hardest working student I have ever had the opportunity to take under my educational wing. Educators love the idea of bell-to-bell workers in the classroom; Bennett is the lone individual of the thousands I've taught to actually achieve this ... and he does so on a daily basis. He placed fourth in Congressional Debate at this year's Florida state debate championship, and was the only legislator ranked by all five judges in the final round. At CatNats, he advanced to semifinals, despite being sick as a dog, and ended up Top 40 in the nation. He didn't break at NSDA nationals, but he proudly represented Florida Oceanfront and Wellington, and will end up earning his NSDA Degree of Premier Distinction, surpassing 1,500 honor points, based on his speeches the past week. He will be staying local, and both helping my 2018-19 team with Congress, as well as judging for us. As I said in his letter of recommendation, and reiterated at the senior banquet, the world needs more Bennett Aikeys.
World Schools Debate this year was ... an experience. What Michael, Natalie, Brandon, and Christopher achieved is beyond my wildest imagination. The three guys and I started preparing for nationals by traveling to Boston over spring break in March for the prestigious Harvard World Schools Debate Invitational (Michael had actually approached me last summer about the idea); the team (which also included Michael Ryter of Massachusetts) went 3-4, but got to face off against some of the best international WSD teams, including national teams representing places like Uganda, Hong Kong, and Canada. We invited Natalie to join us for the national championship, because of her amazing speaking style and ability, which we have seen in Congressional Debate for several years. After nationals "prepared motion" topics came out in early May, they did regular Skype and in-person work sessions, wrote and rewrote cases, and focused as a complete unit. They consulted Carrie McDaniel, a member of last year's Oceanfront team, when putting together arguments and cases, and I profusely thank Carrie for being a vital part of this year's team success.
All the hours of hard work paid off. The Florida Oceanfront Blue Wave went 5-1 in preliminary rounds, which placed them as the 20th seed out of 197 teams. The Top 64 teams advanced. Oceanfront won triples, doubles, and octos, before falling on a 2-1 decision in quarters. And because NSDA nationals has international teams (China, for example, was in the finals), FLORIDA OCEANFRONT FINISHED THE TOURNAMENT FIFTH OVERALL IN THE WORLD. Michael was recognized as fourth-best speaker (of nearly 1,100) from preliminary rounds; Natalie ended up as 24th-best speaker. The quartet were given awards on stage.
I AM SO AMAZINGLY PROUD OF ALL THEY ACCOMPLISHED, AND HOW THEY ACCOMPLISHED IT!
Brandon and Chris are seniors. They have no ego when working on WSD, where only three members of the team are allowed to speak during a round. The team had collectively decided Natalie should be first speaker, while Michael should be second and fourth speaker. Other students could have easily cried about lack of speaking involvement. As seniors, Brandon and Chris could have each pointed out this was their final high school debate tournament, and they should be afforded more opportunities to speak. And it was well within their right to at least ask for consideration of this when it came to the national tournament.
But they didn't. Brandon and Chris chose to split the role of third speaker, and based on their understanding and comfort zone of each rounds' motion, who would speak. This is such an amazingly mature and selfless attitude, and it led to wonderful results. I could not be prouder of the leadership and poise these two young men showed.
Because of the team's success this week, Michael and Natalie have been invited to apply for Team USA, which represents the nation on the international scale in WSD. They are also locked in to represent Oceanfront in 2019. Michael attends Dreyfoos School of the Arts; Natalie attends Boca Raton. And while it's a bit weird to "coach" students from other area programs, it's an honor to work with such amazing and dedicated young adults. For example, I was in communication with Angie Weber Anyzeski on a regular basis, because Michael is her student, and I wanted us to be on the same page. It was sort of like co-teaching, and it worked out very well. I'm looking forward to working with them - and the other to-be-decided members of Florida Oceanfront WSD - in 2019.
This year's success is predicated on last year's success. So to put this year's Florida Oceanfront Blue World Schools Debate team in perspective, I need to drop back to last year, and the Wellington quartet of Schloss, Slaughter, McDaniel, and Connor Yeackley, who were my First Generation of WSD. ALL OF THIS YEAR'S SUCCESS IS AN EXTENSION OF LAST YEAR, AND I HAVE SO MANY THANKS TO OFFER THOSE WHO PLAYED A PART IN 2017. Without you, I wouldn't be writing this, because we would not have achieved so much this year.
The night before 2017 NSDA nationals, in Birmingham, Alabama, I told the team, "All I wanted from you was to be competent and competitive. You got that. You're good. But I have no idea how good, because we've never actually competed in this event before. We might be the best team here. For all I know, we might be the worst team here. I have no sense of comparison. So go and have fun!"
Which they did. Oceanfront went 4-2, was the 32nd seed of 172 teams, and lost to the eventual national runners-up (or is it runner-ups?), with Carrie taking home the fifth-place overall speaker award (of 915 students in WSD).
Carrie and Connor essentially opted for WSD because they ended up the odd Public Forum Debate team out at the Oceanfront District national qualifier. (This is not a knock on either the Oxbridge or Boca team; our district was blessed to have three amazingly strong PFD squads, and only two could advance to NSDA nationals in Birmingham.) C+C decided to compete in WSD, and we ended up with the all-Wellington squad.
None of us knew squat about the event, but we started prepping in May, after the prepared motions were announced. I was in contact with Chase Williams, whose Ohio team had lost finals to Florida Manatee in 2016, and is an amazing wealth of information about the event. He provided us guidance and knowledge, and for this, we thank him; our success the last two years is a direct extension of all he has provided us. I equally thank Cindi Timmons, Shane Stafford, and Sandra Berkowitz, who have provided guidance and advice on looking at creating an Oceanfront WSD team to compete on the national circuit.
We spent two solid weeks at Panera Bread researching, writing, editing, and rewriting cases. Zachariah Chou, who was a member of the Manatee champion team, read over our arguments and offered constructive ideas and edits, to make them more in-line with WSD formatting and procedures. Again, our success the past two years is a direct reflection on his assistance, and we thank him wholeheartedly.
We traveled Florida, scrimmaging teams in Coral Springs, Orlando, and Tampa, before road-tripping to Alabama. I truly believe these hands-on experiences - seven rounds total - not only benefitted us at nationals, but all the teams we worked with. A huge thank you to Megan West, Jesus Caro, Michael Norton, Terri Thomson St John, David Mills, Loveleen Kang, Anna Lassiter, Beth Eskin, and Nathan Johnston, among others, for helping us represent all of Florida and Florida Oceanfront proudly and professionally on the international stage. It's a testament to my Florida coaching peers that we work together for the betterment of all our students. As one coach I spoke to said, "We may be competitive against each other at tournaments, but it's a friendly competition, and we always have each others' backs." I wholeheartedly agree. I know many of my peers also agree.
Perhaps the best thing about my WSD experience is that all six students who have been part of my world in this event the past two years have said, without reservation, participating in World Schools Debate is the most fun they've ever had in Debate. What a wonderful testament to both the event and their working within the confines of WSD. Honestly - and I've said this many times - if you're not having fun in Debate, why are you participating?
Finally, I thank the families of Bennett, Michael, Zachary, Carrie, Natalie, Brandon, Chris, and Connor. Your unwavering support of your children in the galaxy of competitive speaking has been such a huge asset. We would never be able to accomplish all of this without you. Your children make me look so much better as a coach than I truly am, and I am humbled to be a part of your lives.
NATIONAL CATHOLIC FORENSIC LEAGUE NATIONAL "GRAND NATIONALS" CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT @ WASHINGTON, D.C.: Bennett Aikey advqnced to semifinals in Congressional Debate, finishing as one of the top 40 student legislators in the nation.
FLORIDA FORENSIC LEAGUE NOVICE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: 2018 Florida Forensic League Novice State: Matthew McGann SIXTH in Informative Speaking, and William Bussey SECOND in Impromptu Speaking! #ProudCoach RAISE THE ROOF!
HARVARD WORLD SCHOOLS DEBATE INVITATIONAL: The Florida Oceanfront NSDA District World Schools Debate Team of Michael Bole, Brandon Schloss, and Chris Slaugter - plus Michael Ryter of Boston - went 3-4 at the Harvard World Schools Debate Invitational in Boston. Nearly 100 teams from across the globe competed, including teams from Canada, Denmark, China, Hong Kong, Peru, The Philippines, Vietnam, and Uganda.
FLORIDA OCEANFRONT NSDA DISTRICT NATIONAL QUALIFIER: Qualifying for the 2018 National Speech & Debate Association National Congress are Alex Gordon, Lindsay Spruce, Bennett Aikey, Maya Levkovitz, and Nimrit Chandan! Joining Bennett Aikey at the 2018 National Speech & Debate Association national championship: Zachary Jacobson in Dramatic Interpretation, and Brandon Schloss & Chris Slaughter in World Schools Debate!
FLORIDA FORENSIC LEAGUE VARSITY STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: Senior Bennett Aikey placed FOURTH OVERALL in Congressional Debate at the 2018 Florida Forensic League state debate championship tournament this weekend in Orlando. Aikey was one of four Palm Beach County debaters to advance to the final round in Congress, and all four were among the top six in the state.
Aikey's finish is the third-best in Wellington Debate Coach Paul Gaba's history, trailing only Ben Walker's second-place finish in Congressional Debate in 2007 and the third-place finish of the Public Forum Debate team of Greg Foster & Michael Leatherman in 2015.
Aikey was the only legislator in the final session to be ranked by all five judges.
In addition, Paul Gaba was recognized as FFL Macaw Region Coach of the Year.
BRANDON SCHLOSS RECOGNIZED AS 2018 NSDA EXEMPLARY STUDENT SERVICE AWARD WINNER: Wellington Speech and Debate's Brandon Schloss was recognized by the National Speech and Debate Association as the recipient of its 2018 Exemplary Student Service Award.
Schloss was a unanimous choice by a committee of past NSDA "Student of the Year" honorees, who took into account his hundreds of hours as a regional, state, and national anti-bullying spokesman. He was selected by Stomp Out Bullying (the leading national bullying and cyberbullying prevention organization) to speak at schools, at events, in the community, to the media, and raise awareness through social media about bullying and cyberbullying prevention. Mr. Schloss has accumulated in excess of 400 community service hours speaking to students at schools, after-care programs, camps and mall events the past 3 years. He has also been active with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Gang Prevention Unit since 2014, where he coordinates and speaks to elementary school and after care programs about youth violence and bullying. As part of this venture, Brandon has worked with the Palm Beach County School District, Children Services Council, and the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County in organizing and speaking at schools and camps.
All of this began after Schloss wrote an essay for the National Campaign to Stop Violence which included his reflections after reading a news story about an area 15-year-old charged with first-degree murder over a bicycle. He was honored to be selected as an ambassador for Palm Beach County and meet with other youth ambassadors from around the country in Washington D.C., where he met teens from across the nation who had been directly impacted by gang violence, ranging from friends' suicide due to bullying, to living in foster homes due to gang-related drug trafficking, to family deaths via stray bullets.
Through the Do The Write Thing competition, Schloss was challenged to express himself in words. After leaving Washington, D.C., he challenged himself to go beyond the words. He realized he had a responsibility to serve the community by working for positive change and improving the lives of others. This epiphany was not a calling to seek a specific career path, but rather an understanding that being a true leader is not a role, but a responsibility. Leadership, he told me, is practiced not so much in words as in one's character and actions. With that in mind, he contacted schools and volunteered to speak with students about the impact of violence and bullying.
The past four years, Brandon has spoken to hundreds of children at schools, after-care programs, summer camps, and in mall events. Whether speaking on behalf of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Gang Prevention Unit or the Stomp Out Bullying organization, as one of their national teen ambassadors, his message is simple and clear: "Imagine standing in someone else's shoes; how would that make you feel?" This simple but profound message of empathy now guides his relationship with others and is a foundation of his character.