Thirteen students were named members of the National Junior Forensic League team that will compete against thousands of other students from around the country this year after being crowned champions in their respective categories last Saturday at the Hopwood Junior High School cafeteria.
This year’s event is the largest NJFL regional competition ever hosted in the CNMI. According to competition officials, because of so many entrants, the competition had to be broken up into three evenings and into the weekend. This allowed students to compete in English and Chamorro competitions as well.
The students hailed as gold medalists are Northern Marianas International School’s Candice Aldan, for original oratory; Grace Christian Academy’s Dianne Arnold and Pegg Pixley, for duo interpretation; and Marianas Baptist Academy’s Minju Kang, for prose reading interpretation. Esther Kim from Grace Christian Academy will be representing the island in poetry; Marianas Baptist Academy’s Won Kwon Kim, for Lincoln-Douglas Debate; Hyun In Noh, extemporaneous speech; Saipan Community School’s Esther Park, storytelling; Mount Carmel School’s Reica Ramirez, impromptu; Grace Christian’s Melody Woo, humorous interpretation; and Hopwood Junior High School’s Kelvin Wolf, for Dramatic Interpretation.
Two winners representing poetry and dramatic interpretation in the Chamorro language were also named. Hopwood Junior High School’s Chloe Salvosa and San Vicente Elementary School’s Nina Vladsimo won in their categories, respectively.
The team, known as the “CNMI Coconuts,” will advance to the national NJFL competition in Overland Park, Kansas, in June this year, along with the high school national forensic league team.
HJHS’ Kelvin Wolf said “it was a wonderful feeling to win again.”
He added, “Competition was stressful because I know I had to defend my title. With the help of my mom, who is my coach, I am glad I made it!” Wolf told the Saipan Tribune that he will be polishing his speeches for the national competition.
Wolf’s mother and school coach, Johanne, said she is confident the team will do well. “I know it takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and late nights. We are proud. His determination paid off!”
Fellow NJFL national team member and GCA student Esther Kim echoed the same sentiment. “I feel excited and nervous because it is my first year going to nationals, but I also think I will have a fun time in nationals because I will be able to learn new things,” she said.
GCA coach Ami Joy Danganan said this year marked the school’s highest number of student gold medalists and top winners in all the years she has coached NJFL. “I prayed for each of my students. We dedicated this victory to the Lord who has blessed all of them with amazing talent and supportive parents,” she said.
Long-time NFL board member and NJFL coordinator Angie Wheat said she is proud of all the participants. She is confident the CNMI will perform well in the national speech and debate tilt.
According to Wheat, this year’s competition received over 60 participants from 10 schools.
“Everyone did a great job! All the coaches, judges parents, and board who participated made this a nearly flawless meet.”
This year, both the National Forensic League and National Junior Forensic League may need to personally cover some of the trip expenses due to the financial shortfall of the Public School System.
School coaches and participants expressed concerns that some students may not be able to make it on the trip because of the lack of funds, especially for public school students. However, the organization in the past has successfully sent students under similar conditions and returned home with several awards and recognitions.