Speech and debate team hosts first ever virtual tournament fundraiser

January 16, 2021 — by Anouk Yeh
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It has been the usual dilemma. The speech and debate team is, once again, short of funding this year.

Among the ways the team tried to combat the budget deficit: virtually hunting down members who haven’t paid the asked-for donation, doing a fruit fundraiser and creating a communal team PayPal. 

In late October, junior Harshini Velchamy, the team’s vice president of speech, came up with an idea for raising money:  hosting a virtual speech and debate tournament for middle and elementary schoolers.

Although the idea was promising, running a tournament turned out to be no easy feat. 

“I told them, if you want to do it, sure. But you have to run it yourselves,” said English teacher Erick Rector, who advises the team.

Velchamy took on the role of lead organizer of the tournament.

“My main job was being the Saratoga representative on the backend of the tournament,” she said. “I handled the Saratoga High judges, and I did a lot of advertising for the tournament and wrote the invitation and schedule.”

Additionally, she helped come up with the name of the tournament: Hyde Invitational, named after former assistant principal Karen Hyde, who had been a large champion of the school’s speech and debate team.

Velchamy said that while the team’s original intention was just to host a quick tournament to fundraise, it quickly blossomed into something more.

“It started off being about funding, but while we were organizing the tournament and contacting other schools, we also realized how big of a deal this would be for middle and elementary school students,” Velchamy said. “ They don't get as many opportunities to compete in a real tournament.”

Overall, there were over 80 elementary and middle school competitors at the tournament on the weekend of December 19-20.

Sophomore Alexandra Pak, a member of the speech and debate team, judged for the tournament on Saturday. She was assigned to judge two rounds of Impromptu Speaking and one round of SPAR (spontaneous argumentation) debate. 

“I was able to see a bunch of people trying out new things  and presenting different types of speeches than I usually see in high school,” Pak said. 

As a speech competitor who only does platform and interpretative speech, Pak said the hardest part of judging at the tournament was having to learn the rules for the events she was assigned to judge on the spot. 

Despite this, Pak said she had a fun time judging at the tournament — especially during the impromptu rounds.

“I think the elementary impromptu speeches were some of my favorites to judge,” Pak said. “They had such different outlooks and points than a lot of the people in high school speech.”

Although the club has not finished calculating the total proceeds from the tournament, Velchamy said that the tournament was highly successful both in terms of monetary gain and community impact.

“After realizing the tournament’s positive impact on the elementary and middle schoolers, we decided that we would make this an annual tournament to continue supporting elementary and middle school programs,” she said.