Cleburne High School’s Noelle Mitchell and Douglas Davis will be among the academic athletes competing in the Region II UIL Academics 5A contest taking place Friday and Saturday in Prosper.
Both seniors are competing in speaking events as silver medalists in District competition. Mitchell, fresh off her participation in UIL One Act Play, is advancing in Persuasive Speaking. In addition to his second place finish in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Davis was selected as the recipient of the Top Speaker Award.
“This is Douglas’s second year in debate,” Matt Moulden, UIL debate coach said. “The Top Speaker Award is presented to the individual achieving the highest number of points in preliminary competition. He and Taylor Bird, who placed fifth in the Lincoln-Douglas event, qualified for the quarterfinals at District—and Douglas just kept on winning.”
“He has worked tirelessly the past two years to learn the ins and outs of LD,” Moulden said. “Students are required to create two cases, one with an affirming resolution, the other with a negating argument, then present both sides. To be in LD, you have to like philosophy and research, as well as public speaking.”
Moulden praised Davis on his efforts to prepare for his UIL event, which will be conducted Friday, working on his own to reach out to other students involved in the public speaking contest, named for the series of seven debates between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln during the 1858 Illinois state election campaign, regarded as among the most significant statements in American political history.
“Douglas can argue about anything, including whether water is wet,” Moulden said. “He’s taken Advanced Placement classes throughout high school and competed two years in Academic Decathlon. He’s a smart kid with tons of potential.”
“The Regional contest will be a big step up from District,” Moulden said. “He will be going against the top eight debaters in our area. In our District alone, we have very strong debate programs with lots of veterans. He’s well prepared, and has the ability to compete well and to do well. The top three in the contest will advance to state.”
Mitchell has made quite a name for herself in her first year at CHS. She organized and inspired a new set of CHS competitors for YMCA Youth and Government, the first in more than 20 years. Mitchell’s speaking abilities were honed during her four years in Youth and Government. She recently ended her term as the Youth Chief Justice and has been accepted, for the second time, to attend the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs taking place in July in North Carolina.
“Competing in Persuasive Speaking is definitely similar to what I did as a Youth and Government attorney my freshman and sophomore years,” Mitchell said. “But in Persuasive Speaking, it’s more about thinking on your feet. You are given a topic, then in 30 minutes, come up with an argument to present before judges. I’m comfortable with public speaking, but this is different—you have to be eloquent and knowledgeable in what you are speaking about. You need to be informed and ready to provide supporting facts.”
Mitchell, who discussed some “hot topics,” at the District contest, i.e. “are frequent users of social media unknowingly giving up their privacy rights?” and “the decreasing power of the NRA,” said she wasn’t sure what to expect as a first time competitor in Persuasive Speaking. She will be competing Saturday in her UIL event.
“I’ve never done this before, so I didn’t put my expectations too high,” she said. “I felt I would do all right, but was very surprised when I came in second. The student who took first place was a very successful veteran in the event.”
Social studies teacher Chris Poss, who also serves as UIL Academics coordinator and a coach in two events, said Cleburne will be well-represented by the Regional qualifiers.
“These two students have worked very hard this year,” Poss said. “I believe they will represent their school and Cleburne ISD very well. All our students in UIL Academics worked hard this year and I am very proud of their efforts.”
More than 20 CHS students competed at the District Academics meet including Ryan Siler and Chris Morton, who placed 4th and 5th respectively in Informative Speaking; Tabitha Lane, 4th place and Regional Alternate in Poetry; John Paul Nguyen, 5th place Computer Applications; Avery Rush, 4th place and Regional Alternate in News Writing,
and 6th place in Feature Writing.
Faculty members serving as UIL Academics coaches include Susan Tranum, Kelly Perez, Mitchell Park, Charles Frederick, Dawn Broadway, Brent Barnes and Katie Arellano.