Fontbonne Speech Team dazzles judges in national contest
Two members of the Fontbonne Hall Academy Speech and Debate Team proved to be among the best speakers in the country when they competed in a national championship in Salt Lake City earlier this month.
Gabrielle Buenerd and Mikayla DeLorenzo finished in 15th place out of more than 250 teams competing in the National Speech and Debate Tournament, which took place June 12-17. The competition was sponsored by the National Speech and Debate Association.
The Brooklyn students found, to their delight, that they were celebrities among their peers.
“Students from other parts of the country wanted to meet the New York City girls. Everyone was asking to have their picture taken with them,” Fontbonne Coach John Herron told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The Fontbonne students were equally impressed with their competitors, Buenerd said. “It was a surreal feeling. I’ve never seen so much talent in one room!” she told the Eagle.
A highlight of the six-day competition was a 10-minute “Duo Interpretation” performance that each high school team had to perform before a panel of judges.
“It’s tough because you’re not allowed any props. And you’re not allowed to look at each other,” Herron said.
Buenerd and DeLorenzo boldly decided to make a social statement in their performance. They chose to present a scene from “Girls Like That,” a play by British writer Evan Placey dealing with the effects of cyber bullying in a high school.
The Brooklyn students played a variety of roles in their 10-minute performance piece. “They portrayed multiple characters, from the girls doing the bullying to the victims suffering from the bullying,” Herron said.
Were they nervous? No, said Buenerd, who was also a captain of the Speech and Debate Team during her senior year.
“We’ve been competing in national tournaments all year, so it wasn’t new to us,” she said. “We had a feel for it before this.”
The Fontbonne team also competed in contests at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford universities.
“It gave them valuable experience in terms of competing at a national level,” Herron said.
There are 18 girls on the Fontbonne team. Fontbonne Hall Academy, located at 9901 Shore Road in Bay Ridge, is a Catholic high school for girls.
Buenerd and DeLorenzo enjoyed their time in the West. So did Herron, who accompanied them.
The students were also accompanied by chaperones. “Utah is beautiful. Everywhere you go in Salt Lake City, you are surrounded by mountains,” Herron said.
Taking part in speech and debate can help raise a student’s self-esteem, according to Herron, who also teaches religion at Fontbonne. “It helps develop leadership skills,” he said.
Being a member of the Speech and Debate Team and competing in national competitions has boosted her confidence, Buenerd said. “It definitely makes you unafraid to present yourself in public and speak to large groups of people,” she said.
Buenerd and DeLorenzo, who were both seniors at the time of the national tournament, graduated from Fontbonne a few days after their return to Brooklyn.
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