“I want to continue to do what I love and love what I do.”
This explains why Mount Carmel School senior Monica Usi has been participating in various speech and debate competitions since the first grade.
For over a decade, Usi has pushed herself because “I enjoy expressing myself through speech, poetry, and debate, and have become a better speaker and a better person along the way.”
That has brought her to the Primary Grade Forensic Competition, National Junior Speech and Debate Association, National Speech and Debate Association, the International Thespian Society, the Valentine N. Sengebau Poetry Competition, and Mock Trial.
Usi is not alone in her passion for speech and debate. Over the years, hundreds of Mount Carmel School students of all ages have distinguished themselves as accomplished orators who have won countless PGFC, NJSDA, and NSDA ribbons, CNMI Mock Trial championships, and the Attorney General’s Cup speech competition.
Capitalizing on this impressive track record, this year, speakers and debaters at the school came together to form a new club called VOX Knights.
Taking its name from the Latin word for voice, VOX Knights brings together students of all grade levels who use their voice in various interscholastic competitions, including NSDA, NJSDA, PGFC, mock trial, and ITS. Together, these students have committed themselves to the club’s mission to “dicere veritas et iustitia” (“speak truth and justice”).
Boasting a membership of over 100 students, VOX Knights is headed by a team of seasoned orators who have competed in virtually all local speech and debate events. The president, Jeff Matthew Melchor, embraces a growth mindset to push himself and push others.
“Every year I join, I always have hope that I will succeed. [Each time] I failed, it made me hungrier to be successful,” Melchor said. “The reason I join is to prove to myself that I can do it.”
Between himself and Usi, they have earned a couple of mock trial championships and the privilege of representing the CNMI at the national high school mock trials in Boise, Idaho in 2016 and in Hartford, Connecticut earlier this year.
Although busy with the student council and the school’s Theatre Club, Usi is also vice president of VOX Knights. “I want to help myself and others become better speakers and better people.”
Usi and Melchor are joined by two other seasoned orators, Kalea Borja (secretary) and Jim Michael Ham (treasurer), both of whom have achieved distinction in NJSDA and NSDA. In addition to leading VOX Knights, Borja decided to compete in ITS to “widen my knowledge in theatre and to improve my public speaking skills in a different field.” Ham competes “to enhance my speech skills and to improve my vocabulary.”
Helping the VOX Knights officers are a group of equally committed coaches and advisers, including Toby Smith, Filmah Buenaflor, Criselda Aldan, Grace Rosete, Zita Sablan, Vir Abueme, and MCS president Galvin Deleon Guerrero.
So far this year, VOX Knights has already landed several wins in PGFC, NJSDA, NSDA, and ITS. In the October PGFC meet, the following elementary students placed: Jaze Enzo San Nicholas (first place, Impromptu), Donray Barcinas (second place, Impromptu; fourth place, Readers Forum), Justin Mallari (third place, Readers Forum), Oscar Buenaflor (third place, Impromptu), Ayanna Matsumoto (fourth place, Impromptu), and Ayden Sean Yumul (fifth place, Impromptu).
At the October NJSDA meet, the following junior high school students placed: Kyla Monique Cabrera (first, Impromptu A; third place, Poetry Masters C), Jill Anne Mallari (first place, Poetry Masters C; third place, Original Oratory), Raesyl Gerard Solis (second place, Impromptu A; third place, Poetry B), Renee Kiser (second place, Impromptu B), and Hannah Lacap (second place, Poetry B).
At the October NSDA meet, the following high school students placed: Jeff Mathew Melchor (first place, Dramatic Interpretation; first place, Prose Masters A; and fourth place, Impromptu A), Theresa Zheng (first place, Impromptu B; second place, Poetry Masters A; fifth place, U.S. Extemporaneous), Michelle Palacios (first place, Poetry Masters A), Amy Rose Cabanting (second place, Dramatic Interpretation; fifth place, Poetry Masters A; fiftth place, Prose Masters A), Monica Usi (second place, Original Oratory; fifth place, Expository), Jonelle Toskas (third place, Poetry Masters B; fourth place, Original Oratory; fourth place, Expository), and Jim Michael Ham (fourth place, Impromptu C).
At the October ITS meet, the following high school students placed: Jan Bobadilla (first place, Short Film), and Kalea Borja and Alvin Palacios (third place, Short Film). (PR)