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MJC speech and debate students are Top Speakers at tournament
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MJC’s Speech and Debate Team members who competed in the Santa Rosa Junior College Tournament - from L to R - Victor Lumidao, Sabrinna Gonzales, Daylon Hawn, Kendra McKinley, Nicholas O’Donnell, Brett Andrade and Ryan Teese (Photo courtesy of MJC).

The Modesto Junior College Speech and Debate Team proudly represented the college at their second competition of the season at Santa Rosa Junior College on Oct. 5-6. Eight MJC students competed in debate, platform speaking, oral interpretation and limited preparation. They held their own against both two-year and four-year institutions while earning trophies in debate and individual events, and winning Top Speakers Awards for two MJC students.

This was the tournament’s 50th anniversary and Jack Perella—the former director of forensics at SRJC and the man responsible for the inception of this tournament five decades ago— presented the final award of the competition, the coveted Jack Perella Top Speaker Award, to MJC’s Kendra McKinley. The award is given to the competitor who accumulates the most open division sweepstakes points for their college, and recognizes the contribution that student makes to their team’s success and honors their individual excellence.

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Kendra McKinley receives the coveted Top Speaker award from Jack Perella, founder of the 50-year-old Santa Rosa Junior College Tournament (Photo courtesy of MJC).

Students competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate, in which they prepare extensive research for a year-long resolution. This year, the topic is about whether U.S. cyber command should increase protections on critical infrastructure. In the novice division, Daylon Hawn battled it out in a final round against Sacramento State University, taking first place. He also won Top Speaker in novice LD debate. Speaker points are calculated separately from a student’s win/loss record and indicates that judges scored Hawn’s speaking ability higher than any other competitor in his division.

In Parliamentary debate, students have 20 minutes to prepare for a given resolution. Topics included whether California should pass Proposition 10; whether private colleges and universities should ban social fraternities and sororities; and whether the U.S. should establish a social wealth fund. The brand-new novice partnership of Hawn and Brett Andrade had a 3-1 record in preliminary rounds. They advanced into elimination rounds, where they debated whether the United Kingdom should hold a second “Brexit” referendum. After a tough debate, the pair took home Quarterfinalist awards.

MJC students also proved their talent in individual events. In open Poetry, Sabrinna Gonzales was recognized with a finalist award for her piece exploring the important role food plays in shaping our identities and relationships. Kendra McKinley also earned a finalist award for her piece about loved ones developing Alzheimer’s.

In open Duo Interpretation, the partnership of Gonzales and McKinley earned third place. In open Impromptu Speaking, Gonzales proved her ability to think on her feet and earned a finalist award. In open Informative speaking, McKinley took home the first-place award for her speech about a revolutionary self-healing concrete. Victor Lumidao took home a finalist award for his speech about the contamination of sea salt with microplastics.

“A lot of students on our team are either brand-new to the activity or new to being in the open division. It’s exciting to see students find their voices – and get recognized for their hard work,” said Taure Shimp, the assistant director of forensics at MJC.

On Oct. 19-21, the MJC Speech and Debate Team will travel to Reno, Nevada for another round of competition. For more information about the team including travel schedule and results, visit