Speech and Debate Hosts UIL Tournament

By Bernice Chen, Opinions Editor

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  • Debate Booster Club parents set up the hospitality room for judges and teachers. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

    Photo By Bernice Chen

  • Student volunteers announce and hand out awards on the stage. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

    Photo By Bernice Chen

  • Mrs. Glenda Hovenkamp discusses setting up the room for testing. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

  • A student volunteer organizes ballots for participating schools. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

  • A parent volunteer serves food to judges. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

    Photo By Bernice Chen

  • While waiting for their events, competition participants prepare in the cafeteria. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

    Photo By Bernice Chen

  • Debate students manage the extemporaneous speaking event in the library. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

    Photo By Bernice Chen

  • Debaters help restore rooms to their original format. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

    Photo By Bernice Chen

  • Parent volunteers pose next to the hospitality room. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

    Photo By Bernice Chen

  • Parent volunteers sell food to tournament attendees. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

  • Parents and debaters work out logistics at the registration table. Photo courtesy of WHS Speech and Debate.

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Over the weekend, the speech and debate team hosted their annual University Interscholastic League (UIL) competition, taking place on Saturday, Feb. 23 from morning to evening. The tournament held various events available for students from Austin to compete in.

“The event is a UIL competition where there are a bunch of different events like copywriting and calculator skills and hands-on computer science,” Vani Shah ‘20 said. “What we do as debate is help run the tournament by doing things like setting up the postings that tell each of the competitors where to go and who they’re competing against, and when the day is done we help re-set up the rooms which could’ve been moved for the competition.”

On Friday, Feb. 22, debaters stayed after school to hang up signs around the school and prepare classrooms to be used in the tournament. Students were also allocated to various jobs to help manage the competition.

“We have assigned roles for almost all of our debate members, and through the coordination efforts of myself, Alice [Zhang ‘20], and Mr. [Ruishi] Wang, we’ve done a really good job of designating roles and delegating jobs to specific people to make sure that everything runs smoothly,” Debate President Emily Gao ‘19 said.

Early Saturday morning, students began performing their assigned duties to make sure that the event was conducted without any difficulties. Some were put in charge of organizing ballots for schools to take home, while others helped judges and competitors navigate the school.

“I had to go check to see if the teachers and the judges were at their rooms at the correct times. It was pretty tiring but it was better than being in a room for 2 hours,” freshman Erith Won recalled. “I would say [the tournament] went pretty well, and I heard other people saying that it went really smooth.”

Students weren’t the only ones that assisted. Teachers hosted rounds in their rooms and managed the contests held. Parents of debaters in the Booster Club also volunteered to help out with the tournament. They took on jobs such as helping to pick up food from sponsors of the debate team to sell to participants.

“It was a collective effort of putting everything in the cart, and all the runners had to do was go to the stores and load [food] in the cart.” Booster Club UIL Chair Aparna Mummaneni said. “Getting all the materials and donations helped us plan the next few steps.”

Beginning last December, Booster Club parents applied for food donations from shops nearby like Sprouts and Trader Joe’s, then organized the tournament menu based on what donations they received. This ensured that they were able to provide enough food to competitors and volunteers at the event.

“We have to talk to each restaurant and ask for donations. We tell them what we’re doing, why we need a donation, and how we would appreciate their help,” UIL Co-Chair Kiranmayi Uppuluri said. “It makes us happy that people say they enjoyed the food. This is the signature for Westwood and it keeps people coming.”

Overall, in the eyes of the volunteers and organizers of the tournament, the event was successful and efficient. Schools that participated in the competitions were also pleased with the outcome of the debate team’s hard work.

“This year, the president has been really good at delegating tasks and figuring out who is responsible for what and staying on top of them so that it comes together that much easier. A greater proportion of [students] want to contribute and be a part of something bigger for a whole day,” student Rishob Dasgupta ‘20 said. “[One of the participating schools’ coaches] made it clear that this tournament was smooth as glass and she’s excited to bring her kids here every year henceforth.”