If you pass by Room 400 at San Marino High School after school, you will see students loudly and animatedly arguing with each other, reciting speeches to no one in particular, and dramatically acting out stories without an audience.
It may look slightly chaotic, but this is serious business. The students are members of the Speech and Debate team, San Marino High School’s largest academic competition squad and a nationally-ranked program that trains students in speech and argumentation communications skills.
With more than 130 participants, the team competes at more than twenty tournaments throughout the school year. Events range from debate, to oratorical contests, to tests of political knowledge, to competitive acting. The team, under the direction of Matt Slimp, regularly qualifies and places students at the State and National Championships.
The Speech and Debate team will hold its annual showcase on Friday, February 22 at 7:00 p.m. in San Marino High’s Neher Auditorium. Students will present their award-winning performances and debates while sharing the stories of how the program has changed their lives.
Team president and two-time national championship qualifier senior Jonathan Sheu will deliver an extemporaneous speech on a geopolitics topic of San Marino High School Principal Keith Derrick’s choosing.
Two-time National Championship qualifier senior Mejan Rostamian – who wowed the crowd with her spot-on impression of jazz-legend Etta James last year – will return this year to perform her interpretation from ‘Sunset Boulevard.’
Another highlight of the evening will be the keynote speech by Dr. Matthew Spence, a former SMHS Valedictorian and San Marino Tribune intern, who is currently serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Middle East Policy in the U.S. Department of Defense.
Dr. Spence previously served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Economic Affairs at the National Security Council. He holds degrees from Oxford, Yale and Stanford.
In 1996, while Dr. Spence was a student at San Marino High School, he was coached by Matt Slimp to the title of national champion in U.S. Extemporaneous Speaking. Dr. Spence will be sharing how the SMHS speech program affected his life and shaped his current life skills and values.
Tickets for the showcase are $5 presale or $7 at the door. The entire community is welcome.
The team attended two tournaments last month. At Claremont, Gregory Eng and Lydia Sun finaled in Novice Congress; Travis Duong semifinaled in Varsity Congress; Nathan Lam quarterfinaled in Open Lincoln-Douglas and placed 6th in Open Extemp; Kelvin Wong and Emily Thai placed 5th in Open Parli; Kelvin semifinaled in extemp; and Rachelle Liu semifinaled in oratory.
Also, San Marino’s top Lincoln Debaters attended the Victory Briefs Tournament – one of the most competitive debate tournaments in the nation.
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