Fifteen students from the island’s public and private schools make up this year’s national speech and debate team and will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah in early June for the national tilt.
The champion orators were named at the recent regional competition at Marianas High School and will vie for national titles against other competitors from over 100 schools in the mainland in their respective categories. Eight high schools competed in the CNMI regional competition.
Marianas High School’s Masrur Alam will be vying for the top spot in international extemporaneous speaking, while Mount Carmel School’s Thomas Manglona II and Cathryn Javier will compete in Lincoln-Douglas debate and commentary, respectively. Elizabeth Rose Jones from Kagman High School will be competing in humorous interpretation. Grace Christian Academy’s Yujin Lee will represent the islands in dramatic interpretation. Northern Marianas Academy’s Rebekah Kim is set to compete in original oratory. Saipan Southern High School’s Jeremiah Fernandez will be competing in storytelling.
The MHS tandem of Yuuki Nishida and Jayrald Mercene will represent the islands in the duo category. Fellow competitor Ann Margaret Norcio will be competing in United States extemporaneous speaking and Kelvin Wolf for prose reading. Saipan International School’s Cerinn Hwang will be traveling for expository, SSHS’ Soon Ho Kwon for poetry, and GCA’s Minna Ito for impromptu speaking.
Jonelle Toskas from Mt. Carmel School will also travel to the national competition for her win in the regional Chamorro categories.
The national team has already convened for practices, which will take place every week in the next two months.
Veteran orator and NJSDA national winner Yujin Lee told Saipan Tribune that she is elated and thankful for having earned a spot on the national team.
“I will do my best in my performance. By using what I have learned in the previous years, I hope to bring back better results that reflect our team’s hard work,” she added. “I hope that through experience, I will learn more and improve my speech and performance skills. We have an immensely talented team that I am excited to work with.”
For his part, Masrur Alam described his previous experience at the national level as life-changing.
He said, “I am looking to expand more content in my speech and that is by being more aware of what is happening around the world.”
Former student competitor and current MHS speech coach Dencio Manglona explained that the CNMI team is taking its usual, organized approach to preparing for the national competition.
“This year, more than half of the students who made it are veterans who have seen the nationals tournament before,” he said.
“We’re going to rely on the skills our coaches bring to the table to prepare them in source selection and choreography, and then we’re going to expose them to intensive creative input to get them to the best place they can be before Salt Lake City,” he added.
CNMI Speech and Debate Association board chair Harold Easton lauded the student orators for their fear of not speaking in public.
“This is one of the most talented teams I have ever seen,” he said. “If they put together a lot of hard work, they should do very well at nationals. The CNMI will have no problem being proud of this group.”