By Dominic J Larsen, News Editor
Reminiscent of the 1960 presidential election, those with the Kennedy name have outperformed their opponents, employing their talents in public speaking and debate. Finishing their season strong, the JFK Speech and Debate team has accomplished a number of group and individual goals, racking up personal records and awards.
Performing at the top of their game, Kennedy students placed in first, out of all of the competing schools in the Greater Sacramento area, during the Congressional Debates. This was the second year in a row that the team has accomplished such a feat. The team was headed by Sophomore Rohit Jhawar, who himself placed first in three of the four league Congressional tournaments.
Alongside Jhawar, who also placed seventh at the Stanford National Forensics Tournament, many of the school’s debaters were able to achieve impressive goals this season. Freshmen Grant Bell and Sara Faraj were both able to advance in their respective divisions. Bell qualified, and then finished in fourth at the California High School Speech Association State Championship. Faraj placed fourth in the National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL) Grand National Championship.
Speaking to the astounding feeling of victory, Faraj stated, “It felt great to qualify to the NCFL because it showed how much my hard work had really paid off. In the beginning of the year, I felt I was not seeing much success, but this qualification truly validated the fact that hard work pays off. I also learned to accept feedback as much as I can in order to find success.”
Performing one last season before they exit high school, Seniors Matthew Allin and Lucia Salazar were able to rise through the ranks and be awarded for their performances. Only one step ahead of his freshmen counterpart Grant Bell, Allin earned third at the CHSSA State Tournament. Competing for speech, Lucia, more commonly referred to as Lucy by her classmates, took home second for her performance in the dramatic interpretation segment of the Speech State Qualifier. She, too, qualified for the CHSSA State Tournament, yet did not go on to compete.
Kennedy alumnus Quest Sandel, graduating with the class of 2016, has since gone on to coach the speech and debate team, alongside the course’s teacher, Emily Sommer. Using the abilities he developed as captain of the debate team during his senior year, Quest has helped lead the team to the heights reached as of now.
Marveling at the successes brought to the team by Coach Sandel, Sommer added, “He puts countless hours in both on and off the clock coaching small groups and individual students. He has a gift for pressing students to work smarter and harder to improve their debating and speaking skills beyond what those students think is possible.”
Through determination and hours of practice, a group of developed debaters and their coach have traveled across the country, to the nation’s capital. Much like the Kennedy band, some members of the speech and debate team toured Washington D.C. and competed in the 67th NCFL Grand National Speech and Debate Tournament. These strong members were Faraj, Allin, and Jhawar. Faraj and Allin nearly qualified for semifinals, with Allin just narrowly missing qualification by one spot. Jhawar advanced to semifinals, beating 181 out of the 220 competitors.
Employing teamwork, learning from their failures, and attending countless rehearsal, these youthful orators have competed, even defeating some, against the best of the best in the state and the nation.