Estella Tarango felt her face flush as her daughter, Gabby, launched into a speech during the Hobbs High School Debate Club’s appearance on Tuesday night.
“My mom – she’s a spectacular woman, very awesome. (But) she got sick,” the sophomore began as Estella sat in the audience at the HHS library. Driving home from the hospital after a serious illness, Gabby said her mother heard a song that inspired her to live life to the fullest. As a result, Estella took the family on vacation, went skydiving, took a raft trip and even bought a motorcycle.
“My mom’s insane but that’s exactly why she’s my hero, my inspiration my everything,” Gabby said, wrapping up a presentation that urged listeners to live their life with passion.
“She caught me by surprise,” said Estella, now “100 percent” recovered. “The only thing she told me (before going) was that she was going to talk about life. I was embarrassed but proud.”
Embarrassed and proud was a recurring theme as 16 students nervously made their first public appearance as part of a debate club that was resurrected by Coach Laura Pena last school year after it fizzled from the HHS landscape. Following a year of preparation, the class now heads to East Mountain High School and its first official competition next week.
Debate is important for students to learn self-confidence as well as the ability to master speaking skills that will be important to them in their professional lives, said Pena, a HHS science teacher, HHS alum and former HHS debate club member. “A lot of these kids were outgoing
already and this was kind of the push they needed to have them get up in front of people.”
Actually, Jose Carrasco wouldn’t classify himself as outgoing. “I’m kind of shy but I figured I knew a lot about arguing,” Carrasco said, giving the reason he joined debate. “I wanted to learn how to argue with people that I didn’t know.”
But Tuesday was not a night for argument. Sanctioned competitions include seven forms of debate as well as speeches, the contest for which students have been preparing since the start of school. As next week’s competition nears, students have also practiced well into the evening hours on pieces that fall into one of three speech categories: dramatic duo, original oratory and humorous interpretation.
The fact she could give a speech came as a pleasant surprise to
Rachel Wilson, a writer who enrolled in Debate because she one day hopes to be a lawyer. Nervous at first, Wilson’s delivery was machine gun fast but slowed as her 7-minute speech progressed. “Getting up in front of people is really hard,” Wilson said the following day after reading comments from volunteer judges. “But before, I would have gotten up there and hyperventilated and not been able to say two words. This gives me a chance to express myself and I’m getting a lot better.”
The night’s topics were an insight into what’s on the mind of Hobbs teenagers. Issues included relationships, suicide, teen pregnancy and, for one student, the controversial vaccine Gardasil.
“Scary to think about your parents thinking you were going to die,” said Samantha Robles, who suffered from seizures and other serious side effects after receiving the vaccine. “Scary to thinking about dying period.”
Introspection was the topic for Loghan Abila, who said she wrote her speech after pondering a “Who am I” question while looking in the mirror. “I see wonder and curiosity. I see fear and pain,” said Abila, who received praise from the judges for good eye contact and animation. “I sit down and think to myself, what really reflects who I am? Is it my appearance? My personality? My smile? I realize it’s my actions and choices that reflect who I am as a person inside and out.”
That’s a realization that Estella Tarango said she came to after her illness – but one she would have appreciated achieving at a younger age.
“I think more kids should be involved in (debate),” Tarango said. “I think that it should be a mandatory class. …I told my daughter that this is great for you to be able to get ahead in your life. Being able to speak will help you be assured, will help you be in front of people and say what you’ve got to say. With everything that I’ve been through, I tell her yes, you have to be a person like that.”