Alief News Story

In the realm of Alief ISD's extracurricular activities, one program consistently shines bright: speech and debate. This spotlight illuminates the dedication, talent, and achievements of students and coaches alike within the Alief community. Alief ISD’s speech and debate programs have a long tradition of success, earning high school state championships in 1997, 1998, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2019, and 2023 as well as high school national championships in 2014 and 2021. This tradition of success is built on a unique collaboration between our middle and high school programs. In fact, most of Alief’s high school state and national champions started their speech and debate journey at the middle school level.

Starting in August and concluding in June, Alief ISD middle and high school speech programs engage in a competitive season that encompasses over 145 speech tournaments throughout the school year. This rigorous schedule involves participating in more than 3,000 hours of speech and debate competitions, accompanied by countless hours of dedicated preparation. Furthermore, Alief schools take on the responsibility of hosting 12 speech competitions during the academic year, which includes the prestigious Texas Junior Speech and Debate Association (TJSDA) Middle School State Tournament.

In December, each of the six Alief middle schools participated in the Alief ISD Middle School District Speech and Debate Tournament. Demonstrating a commitment to nurturing the future of speech and debate in Alief, high school students actively contributed by volunteering as judges for their middle school counterparts. 

"Our speech and debate programs stand as among the finest offerings for our students within the Fine Arts department," affirmed Renferd Joseph, Alief ISD Director of Fine Arts. He further emphasized, “Whether it's at local, state, or national contests, our students consistently compete at an exceptionally high level, representing Alief ISD with distinction at hundreds of competitions each year." Mr. Joseph praised the outstanding efforts of each speech and debate coach, highlighting their dedication to nurturing excellence within our students and perpetuating the legacy of excellence within the Alief ISD Fine Arts department.

Alief ISD is one of the few school districts in the Houston area to actively participate in the Houston Urban Debate League (HUDL), Texas Junior Speech and Debate Association (TJSDA), the Texas Forensic Association (TFA), the University Interscholastic League (UIL), and the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA). Every summer, Alief sends middle and high school students to the NSDA National Tournament—the largest academic competition in the world with more than 6,700 students from 1,500 schools. 

"The resounding success of Alief ISD students in speech and debate competitions has not gone unnoticed," remarked Michael McDonald, Associate Superintendent of Secondary Schools. "They have emerged as ambassadors for the district, leaving an indelible mark on the competitive circuit." Last year, students from Alief ISD demonstrated remarkable success at both the state and national levels:

2023 TJSDA Middle School State Tournament

  • Gerardo Diaz, Maryam Al Gailani, Sophia Ghebrelul (Albright Middle School)—State Champions in World Schools Debate

  • Leah Murray (Olle Middle School)—State Champion in Original Spoken Word Poetry

  • Chau Nguyen (O’Donnell Middle School)—Fourth Place in Informative Speaking

2023 TFA High School State Tournament

  • Oluwadara Adebanjo (Elsik High School)—State Champion in Dramatic Interpretation and Fourth Place in Program Oral Interpretation

2023 NSDA National Tournament

  • Leah Murray (Olle Middle School)—Fourth Place in Middle School Original Spoken Word Poetry

  • Kelsey Mosely (Alief Early College High School)—Third Best Speaker in High School World Schools Debate (out of 844 debaters)

  • Abigail Egbujor (Elsik High School)—Second Place in High School Prose Interpretation

  • Caleb Adams (Hastings High School)—Fourth Place in High School Poetry Interpretation

In speech and debate, students acquire essential communication and critical thinking skills highly sought after by colleges and employers. Many of Alief ISD speech and debate participants have graduated within the top 10% of their high school classes, with many achieving the prestigious titles of valedictorians or salutatorians. Over recent years, Alief's speech and debate alumni have gained acceptance to esteemed institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, NYU, Howard, the University of Chicago, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA, Coe College, Colby College, Bradley University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Western Kentucky University. They have been recognized as National Merit Scholars, Posse Scholars, Gates Scholars, QuestBridge Scholars, CITGO Distinguished Scholars, and Houston Rodeo Scholars, along with receiving numerous university-based scholarships and recruitment scholarships.

The achievements we celebrate owe much to their dedicated speech and debate faculty, whose collective teaching experience spans an impressive 126 years. These coaches, recipients of 11 Diamond Awards—an esteemed recognition from the National Speech and Debate Association—play a pivotal role in their students’ success. Serving as leaders in the TJSDA, TFA, and NSDA, they actively contribute to the speech and debate community. Their expertise is widely acknowledged, as evidenced by frequent invitations to present at both local and state conferences.

In the coming months, Alief speech and debate students will compete in the TFA State Tournament (March 7-9), the UIL CX Debate State Tournament (March 15-16), the UIL District Academic Meet (April 6), the TJSDA State Tournament (April 19-20), the UIL Regional Academic Meet (April 26-27), the UIL State Academic Meet (May 13-15), and the NSDA National Tournament (June 16-21).

“Journeying to the University of California - Berkeley, the Alief Hastings High School Speech and Debate Team delivered an exceptional performance, effectively embodying the spirit of Alief ISD on the national stage,” said Lynette Miller, Hastings High School Principal. “Impressively, our competitors secured a commendable position in the Top 25 nationally, showcasing their remarkable talents among the best teams from across the entire nation.” Principal Miller expressed admiration for the students' ability to represent Alief ISD with distinction, underscoring their commitment to excellence.

"Hastings High School's speech and debate team exemplifies excellence, showcasing not only their talent but also their dedication to representing Alief ISD with passion and distinction, both locally and nationally", expressed Dr. Cecilia Crear, Alief ISD Chief of Schools.

For more information on the speech and debate and other Fine Arts offerings, please visit the Fine Arts webpage.