Speech, Debate Team Champs Again

Group of students displaying plaques and trophies

April 25, 2024 - 12:41 AM

Mt. SAC's Speech and Debate team finished its season as the Phi Rho Pi National Champions, winning first place at the 2024 Phi Rho Pi Community College Speech & Debate National Championships held in Reno, Nevada.

Competing against 50 community colleges from across the nation, Mt. SAC earned 267.5 points - the most in over a decade - placing first place overall for the first time since 2019. This is the 10th Phi Rho Pi National Championship the team has won over the past 20-plus years (2024, 2019, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2006, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1998).

The team took home the first-place gold award in Individual Event Sweepstakes and a bronze award in Debate Sweepstakes. Students won 13 gold awards, nine silver awards, and 14 bronze awards. 

But beyond the trophies, students were recognized for the causes they advocated for which were reflected in the stories they told, the speeches they wrote, and the positions they took in debate rounds. Two standout performances came from second-year team members Rachel Kwak and Clay Miller. Rachel won three gold medals and a silver medal, winning second place overall speaker in the tournament.

When asked to describe her experience in forensics, Rachel stated, “The past two years in forensics has taught me the importance of using my voice to uplift all communities."

Clay placed fourth overall, winning two bronze medals, a silver medal, and a gold medal. Clay’s gold-winning informative speech focused on how AI is being used to preserve indigenous languages, advocating for data sovereignty and cultural preservation in native communities. Clay, as well as students Sargun Singh, Rachel Alarcon, and Jonathan Cole, all earned gold medals in the Informative speaking category.three students perform

Mt. SAC also entered three interpreters theaters at Phi Rho Pi. One stand out performance came in the form of the silver winning medal theater titled “From Both Sides”, which featured students Rachel Kwak, Meagan Aguilar, and Jacob Salas. Interpreters Theater is a unique speech event where three students perform a 25-minute piece that supports one central theme. Directed by Communication professor Alissa Duong, the theater highlighted the importance of accessibility in speech and debate.

“Interpreters Theater (IT) is an important event because it embodies the spirit of forensics,” said Duong. “IT offers a sample of all the different categories in speech and debate: acting, speaking, argumentation, and thinking off the cuff and the students have to be quite proficient in all areas in order to do IT well. We are so proud to continue this legacy of excellence!”

“From Both Sides,” along with the silver-medal winning “On This Side of the World” (featuring students Julianna Albert, Caroline Dergazarian, Ella Katindig, and Glitzel Gonzalez), and “the Act” (featuring students Jonathan Cole, Alexandra Chala, and Ericka Delgado-Gameros) will be performed at the American Readers Theater Association Tournament on May 4 on campus.

The team is coached by Communication professors Danny Cantrell, Thuy Pham, Alix Lopez, Jedi Curva, and Alissa Duong.