With all of the negative press surrounding the Hayden School District recently, I would like to share a success story. It is the story of five young women on the high school’s speech and debate team and their principal. You see, while the newspaper and the community are focusing on the standardized test scores and the school report cards, there seems to be very little research into the numerous reasons for the disappointing statistics and what is being done to correct them. Although there is always room for improvement, and certainly that is true with the Hayden School District, it is also important to remember that the students have a lot to do with the results. Student test apathy and general educational apathy in Hayden is a serious problem.
Enter the speech and debate team. Principal Gina Zabel has been unquestioningly supportive of this activity. It seems that while the benefits to the participants, such as life skills, critical thinking skills, public speaking, research methods and many more are irrefutable, perhaps Mrs. Zabel keenly is aware of what these young women are doing for the academic atmosphere in the district.
Speech and debate typically attracts the best and the brightest students. This is a fact backed up by decades of study by the National Forensics League. In Hayden, this year’s team is made up of smart, motivated, dedicated individuals who do not apologize for being smart. These kids are the cream of the crop and they are proud of that. They work hard, already are successful (the two seniors can and have been accepted to any college they choose with substantial financial awards) and make no bones about it. They are leading by example and other students are starting to take notice. Not only is it OK to be smart, it is actually cool and takes you places. If the district can continue to grow this program and others like it that aren’t centered around sports or vocational training (both important and necessary), doesn’t it stand to reason that students may just start trying a little harder? Caring a little more? Performing a little better?
Of the five students, the team came home from the CHSAA State Speech Tournament at Heritage High School on Monday and Tuesday with a sixth place in Creative Storytelling from senior Ashley Otto, a ninth place in Poetry Interpretation from sophomore Sofia Rodriguez and an 11th place in Public Forum Debate from the team of Millie Delaney and Ryan Fralick. If we continue to value activities like these, who knows what else will come of it.