The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

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The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

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NA Forensics: A Year of Progress

After recovering from unfortunate and unexpected circumstances last year, the NA Speech and Debate Team has only continued to excel.
Kristina Wisniewski
Seniors Tharun Sunthar (Back Left), Zohaib Rahman (Front Left), Peter Ricci (Back Right), and Gavin Hou (Front Right) compete in a heated round of Public Forum debate.

One year has passed since the North Allegheny Speech and Debate Team went through its most stressful and volatile period in decades. After the sudden resignation of the former head coach, uncertainty loomed over the heads of the students. However, after a change in leadership and the determined effort of the students, the team now stands proud, leaving the panic and anxiety of the previous year far behind them.

Shortly after the resignation of the former head coach, assistant coach Dominic Moore, an NA grad who was a dedicated member of the team when he was at NASH, stepped up to fill the role. 

“I won’t lie. It was a lot,” Moore said. “I took over a team of over 100 kids in the middle of the season, and we had to not only make sure everybody was going to tournaments every week, but [also] make sure everybody could get to the state championship and our national tournaments.”

During this time, members were left anxious about the future of the team. One of these students was senior Collin Wang, who would go on to become the current president of the team.

“I felt a bit uncertain of the future of the club,” Wang recounted. “We’d been through two coaches in less than two years. However, after our current coach stepped up, my confidence was restored.”

Similarly, junior Kristina Wisniewski, the now secretary of the team, was worried for both the current situation and the future of the (at the time) underclassmen on the team.

“It was honestly very concerning because it was right before our most important qualifiers on the national and local level, so we didn’t know if we had a path to states or nationals last year. As a rising sophomore who was really dedicated and motivated, I felt like my time as an underclassman to develop on the team might not have reached its full potential,” Wisniewski said. 

I felt a bit uncertain of the future of the club,” Wang recounted. “We’d been through two coaches in less than two years. However, after our current coach stepped up, my confidence was restored.

— Collin Wang, NA Speech and Debate President

Some of the then-new members of the team also expressed concerns.

Sophomore Alicia Gasana stated, “At first, I was kind of upset because we were in a place of unknowingness of what was gonna happen.”

However, as described by Moore, the team managed to finish strong by the end of the previous season. 

“It’s like you wouldn’t even know [the resignation] happened, honestly,” Coach Moore said. “We were able to get sixth place in the country last year in Public Forum. We were recognized as a top twenty school in debate. We were also the runners-up for the state championships last year, and this year it looks like we’re going to keep up the good work and keep up the success.”

By the time the 2023-2024 season began, the team’s situation only continued to advance. Publicity Director Siya Jain, a senior, highlighted the group’s progress.

“I think we have progressed pretty well, reaching expectations and performing with excellence,” Jain stated. 

Junior Charles Potter, Vice-President of Speech, shared a similar sentiment.

“Generally speaking, I think we’ve done really well. This year, we have a great coach who’s really good with the administrative stuff,” Potter said. “As far as the competition and our results go, our speech side is looking a lot better than it was last year, and our debate side–since losing the previous incredible seniors–is taking a curve and growing well.”

Wisniewski, who is also an event leader for the Lincoln-Douglas Debate event, cited significant improvement within her event.

“I see a lot of progression with all my kids. I think they’re getting a lot better, and I think they are refining their skills. I know we’ve been placing higher in tournaments recently, and I think we’ve grown a lot as a team,” Wisniewski described. 

Senior Tharun Sunthar, Vice-President of Debate, cites the fantastic competition results all across the team.

“In terms of success, I’m proud to say we’ve had students — from freshmen to seniors — achieve success at tournaments up to the national level,” Sunthar said.

Moore attributes much of the team’s success to the officers and event leaders of the team.

“The team could not run without the officers and event leaders who keep this all together. Those are our upperclassmen who teach the underclassmen all of our events and really help me manage this big, very loud group of students,” Moore explained.

Each of the officers is in charge of specific tasks. For example, Wang handles many of the administrative tasks as president.

“I assist our head coach with different administrative tasks: registering students for tournaments, coordinating parent judging assignments, leading practices, and communicating information with students. I also plan independent trips to national tournaments with other officers,” he said.

Many members of the team, both upperclassmen and underclassmen, find the team to be a great source of community.

“I think my favorite thing about the team is the community we get from it and getting to make friends around the region from different teams,” Gasana said.

Wisniewski added, “My favorite team about this team is genuinely the people on it. I think that debate becomes an activity where it’s almost like a home. You’re spending all of your weekends with these people, and they become your friends. You build relationships in this activity unlike a lot of others, and I think we’re all really close, and I love that.”

Wang emphasized the level of collaboration that happens during team practices.

“From editing each other’s debate cases and speech pieces to holding practice rounds, each student wants to help out their peers,” he said.

Of course, there will always be room for further improvement within the team. Some newer members had a bit of trouble finding their place in the club. Freshman Luca Ferriolo was one of these members.

“It’s been fun, but sometimes I get a bit lonely because people don’t talk to me very much, but it was not really a huge issue. Towards the beginning of the year I didn’t know very many people,” Ferriolo stated.

Many of the officers also listed areas in which the team could improve. One such area is the lack of other coaches.

“I think we could improve on having both a larger coaching staff and more focused practices,” Jain explained.

Potter added, “I want to see more coaches. Basically, we don’t have any assistant coaches, and Coach Moore is forced to do everything on his own. Next year, I’d like to see more people coming in to help us.”

Another point of improvement that was mentioned by both Moore and the officers is the gap between the speech side of the team and the debate side of the team.

“For me, I think the biggest area where the team can grow is in speech,” Moore explained. “Our team is an amazing debate team, and the speech kids we have are awesome, but I just wish we had more of them. Next year, I’d love to see more kids in the competitive acting events and the speech events.”

Wisniewski added, “There’s a really big bridge between the speech kids and the debate kids, and I think in the next coming years, we need to do two things. First, we need to become more of a team rather than just two separate activities. Secondly, we need to put a lot of emphasis on building up our speech program again.”

Luckily, over the past year, Moore has already implemented some changes to help introduce some of the speech events to students on the debate side of the team.

“[Coach Moore] has already begun the improvement of introducing our underclassmen to new events by requiring them to try three different events at tournaments. I hope this practice can continue in the future with even more interest in multiple events,” Wang stated.

Starting from scratch in February was a lot, but we built the plane in the air while we flew it, and we made it through fine.

— Dominic Moore, NA Speech and Debate Head Coach

Sunthar hopes to see the continuation of this policy in order to further integrate the team.

“I hope to see the team continues pursuing this strategy so students can find their own place in the events they’re best at,” Sunthar said.

Moore has also implemented a few changes regarding the expectations of the team.

“I think the biggest change we made this year was that we introduced some measures for more accountability for both the team leadership and for the students,” Moore explained. “I commend the students because they really do take a lot on themselves. A lot of this is self-directed; if you don’t have that drive, this isn’t going to be the activity for you. The students we have do [have that drive], and it’s great to see.”

Even despite the grim situation that the team was left in just a year prior, it was thanks to the combined efforts of Coach Moore, the officers and event leaders, and the students that helped propel the Speech and Debate Team to new heights, and it doesn’t look like the journey is stopping anytime soon.

“Starting from scratch in February was a lot, but we built the plane in the air while we flew it, and we made it through fine.” Moore said. “It’s really hard to believe it’s been a year, but it’s been a great one.” 

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About the Contributor
Sunny Li
Sunny Li, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Sunny is a Senior at NASH who is writing for the Uproar for the second and final year. As one of three Editors-in-Chief, Sunny hopes to inspire the rest of the Uproar's staff to go outside the box with wacky, yet well-constructed works. Outside of writing for the Uproar, Sunny enjoys aiding, guiding, and competing for the Speech and Debate team as one of two event leaders for Interpretation.

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