Jose Renteria, regional “Speaker of the Year”; just as Ketanji Brown Jackson credits her debate team for initiation into success

Travis Cantonwine

Local speech and debate students may head down a historical road as well

Speech and debate may have some kids building the skills they need towards success: communication, resilience, intelligence, and confidence. 


The recent Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has a shot to become an associate justice of the highest court in the land: the first black woman to be considered for the position. In a University of Georgia School of Law’s 35th Edith House Lecture, Jackson reflected that speech is “the one activity that best prepared me for future success in law and in life.” Before, she said, “go Panthers” to commemorate the high school, Miami Palmetto Senior High School, that gave her a “strong educational foundation.”

The parallels between speech students at Delta High School are harmonious with the law clerk turned historical D.C Circuit Judge. Jose Renteria, a senior with four years of debating skills under his belt, won the Speaker of the Year award for the western Colorado region. 

“The exact name of Jose’s reward is District Student of the Year,” said Danielle Lopez,math teacher, programming teacher, and forensics team advisor for Delta High School. “He is ranked number one in the district for [accumulating] points. I haven’t had a student score over 1000 points since Hannah Owens was on the team.”

Owens was a student who excelled in her debate championship, as well as climbing her way to nationals thrice. This year, the National Tournament of 2022 is in Louisville, Kentucky. Renteria is on the roster, and so are several other students who excelled in the regional and state competitions.These competitions determine if students can compete in Louisville.

Joining Renteria are juniors Jenna Reese and Morgan Farmer; and sophomores Nick Serve, Mialosa Randeria, and Ana Asavei. They all agree that speech and debate is not only helpful in real life situations, but “definitely” would credit speech and debate in the event they attain their idea of success. 

What skills are they learning to carry the aspirations they have? Ketanji Brown Jackson said learned skills such as creating opportunities, communication, and self-confidence were a product of her hard work in speech. Similarly, Renteria sees the benefits in being a part of his team. As a debate captain, he “builds connections” and spends practices by helping other members, as well as assisting coaches to prepare for tournaments. 

“I’m in debate,” says Renteria. “[which] tends to be political. It increases political efficacy… and [informs me] about how the government works. It makes you think about the people that run things.”

Renteria feels that speech and debate created an opportunity for him by pointing out his desired career path.

“[Speech and debate] has created my interest for what I want to do for a career and I [may not] be doing it in the first place if it wasn’t for speech,” said Renteria. 

Not only Renteria found opportunities by participating in speech and debate. 

Additionally, throughout his high school experience, Renteria had increased his ability to communicate, learned time management skills, and attained more confidence in his words. “I learned [to improve] the way you speak and get information across so it is a lot more digestible,” said Renteria. 

Knowing that life skills are attained while putting in the work to publicly debate, speak and/or perform, the students who compete across the country are competitive, and winning does not come easily to many. According to a study conducted by communication and forensics professors Micheal D. Bertanan and Robert S. Littlefield, speech and debate is a form of play and has lost the “richness of the simulation” because of competitiveness. 

What is a form of play? The professors both agree with Scott Eberle, PhD, that a form of play is not defined easily and may be abstract, such as love or creative art. But essentially, play is essential to human development by self reward. According to Eberle, play has six elements: anticipation, surprise, pleasure, understanding, strength, and poise. Additionally, Bertanan and Littlefield agree that speech and debate enables all of those benefits, and can allow the “means [to be] more valued than ends.” 

Forensics defined by developmental play helps the activity fall into the same developmental category as physical sports such as football, soccer, basketball, etc. Renteria agrees that debate can give one similar impact on mental and emotional development as a sport. 

“Even though it is not a physical thing, you still gain life skills,” said Renteria. “In a lot of ways, it’s the same type of life skills you get with a traditional sport.”