In the latest column, news about the Palo Alto High Speech and Debate competitor who won a national championship, a first for the team, and an app challenge open to local middle and high school students.
BRIGHT MINDS ... Although classes came to a close weeks ago, for Palo Alto High School's Speech and Debate team, the work has not stopped.
Last week, at the 2022 National Speech and Debate Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, rising senior Ethan Boneh made team history as the team's first national champion. The tournament hosted 6,000 competitors from 1,500 schools.
Boneh competed in an existential event called Big Questions, where the topic of the year considered if "societies benefit from religious belief and practice." He expressed his eternal gratitude toward his team, saying that its support has been unreal. "Our team has been a place for me to draw community, camaraderie, confidence and charisma," Boneh said. "I love you all so much."
Other successful students include rising junior Mihir Menon, who made the top eight of his field at his first in-person tournament. Menon said that the event was more fun than he had expected and praised the support of his teammate Benjamin Grimes, who also competed at the nationals. Rising senior Lucas Guan reached the semi-finals in Congress, a mock legislative style of debate. Guan said that it felt more rewarding to compete alongside his team at a real tournament.
Retiring program director Jennie Savage expressed the pride she had for the team's dedication. "We could not be prouder of our team," she said. "They've worked incredibly well together to achieve their goals this year."
After an 18-year tenure, Savage will be passing the reins to Kyle Hietala, who was an award-winning debater before he began coaching six years ago. Hietala described the poignant timing of Boneh's win, noting that the official change of directors happened in-between his finals round and the announcement of his victory.
AN 'APP-EALING' CHALLENGE ... Local middle and high school students have a chance to enter Rep. Anna Eshoo's annual Congressional App Challenge, which runs through Nov. 1.
The challenge kicked off last week and is part of a nationwide, bipartisan event where students compete against their peers in each congressional district to create a software application for cellphones, tablets or computers. The competition was established in 2013 by Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and former Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte to increase student engagement in science, technology, engineering and math.
"The Congressional App Challenge is a unique opportunity for students, regardless of their level of coding expertise, to turn their creative ideas and talents into apps that provide real-life solutions to problems they see in their communities," Eshoo said in a June 15 press release.
Locally, the challenge is open to all middle school and high school students who live in or are eligible to attend a public school in the 18th Congressional District, which includes Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos. Students may work in groups of up to four people — as long as at least two of the students in the group are eligible to compete in the 18th District.
The winning student or group from each participating congressional district will have their app displayed in the U.S. Capitol. More information can be found at eshoo.house.gov.