'An honor, but also daunting'

When Satya Khurana was a freshman, she had her doubts about joining the North Mecklenburg High Debate and Speech Team.

"To be honest, speech and debate wasn't something I wanted to do, but people kept telling me to give it a chance," Satya said. "Once I attended my first tournament, I was hooked. Being part of a community of students who are knowledgeable about global issues is exciting and a bit addictive."

Satya honed her presentation skills, qualifying for nationals in her sophomore and junior years, and reaching the octafinals of the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions. This year, her hard work reaped an even bigger payoff: She begins the 2018-2019 competitive season as the number-one original orator in the country, ranked by the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA).

"Being first is an honor, but it is also rather daunting," Satya said. "Maintaining this rank will not be easy."

Original Oratory combines writing, research, argumentative and speaking abilities. Students research and compose an original 10-minute speech, usually persuasive, then memorize and perform it at competitive tournaments. The NSDA system attributes points to competitors in Original Oratory based on the number of rounds competed in and ranks in those rounds.

"Satya's success as an orator comes from a combination of talent and an incredible work ethic," said Christopher Rocca, head coach emeritus of the North Meck team. "Her ranking gives the team a leader whose qualities are what every team member will strive for."

Rocca said a good oration is written in the beginning of the season and can become a great one throughout the year as it is edited and refined in subtle speaking techniques. He said Satya is an excellent student who has honed her writing skills in crafting her orations and polished her presentation skills through constant practicing.

"She attended almost every competitive tournament the team has, and has accumulated more National Forensic League points than any other competitor in the nation," Rocca said.

Satya said speech and debate is fun and has challenged her in new ways. In addition to becoming a more thoughtful and poised speaker, she said, she has learned to see the world in a new way.

"It has forced me to look at controversial subjects and question the way our society works," Satya said. "Speech and debate is so much more than a competition. It's about sharing a passion and helping people see from other perspectives. It's about igniting change through words."

Satya said she encourages any student to give speech and debate a chance. She emphasized that it's not all about winning and tournament standings; it's about growth.

"Speech and debate helps you build confidence and hone critical-thinking and communication skills," Satya said. "It also fosters long-lasting friendships within your team, as well as the speech community."

Click here to see all of the NSDA rankings.