That's So SA

Speech & Debate

You'll Have a Say

Speech & Debate develops confidence, poise, critical thinking, and self-expression. Speech students perform polished orations and dramatic interpretations, individually or in pairs, at competitions in the Bay Area. The Policy Debate team engages in intensive research and evidence-based argumentation on a nationally selected resolution and competes in the Golden Gate Speech Association. In the last four years, both speech and debate students have qualified for state championship competitions.

Speech & Debate News

List of 3 news stories.

  • Speech & Debate Off to a Great Start at Grapevine

    Earlier this month, the Sonoma Academy Speech and Debate Team showcased their talents at the Grapevine Classic Tournament in Grapevine, Texas. In Debate, The duo of Joshua Lim '26 and Siddharth Kohli '26 achieved an impressive record by winning three of their five debate rounds. Similarly, Caroline Young '25 and Lukas Updegraff '24 put on a strong performance, also winning three out of five rounds. Caroline Young further distinguished herself by ranking as the 40th speaker among a highly competitive field of over 120 participants. Not to be outdone, Layla Zekaris '26 and Sarkia Satish '26 turned in a remarkable performance, securing victories in two out of their five rounds. 

    In Speech, the duo of Elena Hanna ‘24 and Nia Murray ‘24 had an impressive performance securing 9th place overall, also in Duo Interpretation, Lu Elyer ‘25 and Lilia Maxwell ‘25 got 13th overall. 

    Overall, the team's performance at the Grapevine Classic Tournament was an outstanding way to kick off the season. Their collective achievements not only set a high standard but also signaled a promising year ahead. With such a strong start, anticipation is high as the team prepares for their next competition at The Meadows School Tournament on October 27. 
  • Speech & Debate at State Championship

    Members of the SA Speech & Debate team recently traveled to Carlsbad, CA to compete in the California High School Speech Association State Championship. Their journey to this prestigious tournament started in March, when they competed at the Golden Gate Speech Association's state qualifying tournament, and qualified six students to State. Similarly, seven other leagues across California held qualifiers and sent eight to ten of their best students in each event to the State Championship. The students competing at State truly represented the best of the best in the state of California. 

    Zadie DeFord '24 and Luca Tonda '24 qualified and competed in policy debate. After winning a majority of their ballots over the course of the weekend, they finished as the top 18 policy debaters in the entire state of California! 

    In Duo Interpretation, Elena Hanna '24 and Nia Murray '24 had an extremely successful tournament. Performing a rendition of the 2006 film, "Stranger than Fiction," they emerged at the top of their event after their preliminary rounds to become semifinalists for the championship title. Elena and Nia are in the top 13 in the state! 

    Congratulations to our amazing competitors, who I am happy to say are some of California's finest. I am so proud of the incredible season they had! 
  • Speech and Debate at Harvard

    Last weekend, members of the Varsity Speech and Debate teams traveled to Cambridge, MA to compete at the Harvard University National Forensics Tournament. This is one of the most significant and widely attended invitationals of the season on the national Speech & Debate circuit. Nearly 450 schools from 35 different states across the United States and Canada traveled to Harvard to compete! Our students had their work cut out for them competing on such a large national stage against so many other national circuit programs. 

    In Varsity Policy Debate, students competed in seven preliminary debate rounds over the course of two days, for a total of 20+ hours of debating and preparing. The team of Caroline Young '25 and Lukas Updegraff '24 had a standout performance in the Varsity division, and earned a winning record. Caroline and Lukas defeated teams from Chicago, Boston, Minnesota, and New York, and advanced into the elimination rounds of the tournament! This is an incredible feat for these particular students, since they both started competing at the national circuit level just this year. In one season, they have transformed from novice debaters into varsity-level competitors, and to make it to elimination rounds at their final invitational of the year is an impressive accomplishment. This performance also puts Lukas and Caroline in the running for a slot at the National Debate Coaches Association National Championship!

    Zadie DeFord '24 and Luca Tonda '24 also won several of their debates, defeating multiple teams from New York and from Texas. They have already qualified for the NDCA National Championship this year. 

Event Descriptions

Policy Debate
Policy is a fast-paced debate event that tests a student’s research, analysis, and strategic thinking skills. Debaters must understand and defend both sides of a resolution in teams of two, and use high-quality evidence to back up their claims.

Congressional Debate
Congress models the U.S. legislative process, and involves writing, researching, and arguing for or against bills in a group setting. Students are judged based on their poise, research skills, and ability to deliver spontaneous and persuasive speeches.

Duo Interpretation
This highly theatrical speech event involves two students performing scenes from a film, book, play, or other published work. Students must display emotion, range, and precision in their delivery, as well as show chemistry and coordination with their partner.

Dramatic Interpretation
If you have a flair for the dramatic, then DI is the event for you. Competitors use a play, story, or other published work and perform a selection that demonstrates their ability to convey emotion and display character development with the use of a dramatic text.

Humorous Interpretation
This interpretation event tests a student’s ability to interpret texts and deliver a humorous speech with comedic timing. Competitors must choose an excerpt from a published work and perform a speech that showcases their delivery skills and ability to portray multiple characters.

Oratorical Interpretation
This classic speech event involves competitors performing a published speech that has already been delivered in a public forum. This event tests the student’s poise and delivery, as well as their ability to interpret the intent of the original speech and provide context to its contemporary meaning.

Thematic Interpretation
Using selections from Prose, Poetry and Drama students create a performance around a central theme. Program Oral Interpretation is designed to test a student’s ability to intersplice multiple types of literature into a single, cohesive performance. A manuscript is required and may be used as a prop within the performance if the performer maintains control of the manuscript at all times.

Original Oratory
Students deliver a self-written, ten-minute speech on a topic of their choosing. Limited in their ability to quote words directly, competitors craft an argument using evidence, logic, and emotional appeals. Topics range widely, and can be informative or persuasive in nature. The speech is delivered from memory.
2500 Farmers Lane 
Santa Rosa, CA 95404 
(707) 545-1770 
inbox@sonomaacademy.org
 

Sonoma Academy Is...

...the only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, our students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.

Sonoma Academy admits students of any race, color, religion, ethnicity or national origin, citizenship, gender or gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, or disability, to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. The school does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity or national origin, citizenship, gender or gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and tuition assistance programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.