By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Harding Fine Arts Academy seniors Lacey Pierson and Je’Nell Tyson were recently honored as the 4A Speech and Debate state champions in the Dramatic Duet category.
The Speech and Debate State Final Championships were held at the University of Oklahoma.
For their Dramatic Duet, Lacey and Je’Nell chose a scene from the book “The Help” in which a young white woman, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, and her relationship with two black maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, during the Civil Rights era in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi.
In addition, the entire HFAA Speech and Debate team, which has only been existence for 4 years, won the 2nd Place Sweepstakes trophy from the entire state.
HFAA teacher, Mr. Jaimie Gargas, has been mentoring and coaching the speech and debate team since its culmination.
Current debate topics range from historic preservation versus property rights and the government’s role in ensuring food security to reparations to black American’s and the minimum living wage.
“From the small team of four giant abilities in 2012, our team has transformed into a diverse and talented group of thirty-two that have placed themselves among the elite 4A teams in the state. We’re honored by the competitive community that’s welcomed us so warmly!” said Gargas
“Speech and debate is an academic activity that is comparable to athletic sports,” Gagas added. “Speech and debate events are challenging, competitive in nature, and require regular practice, coaching, commitment, and hard work.”
Other winners from HFFA include: Sean Smith 3rd Place for Dramatic Interpretation, Je’Nell Tyson 3rd Place for Humorous Interpretation, Whitney Clear 3rd Place for Standard Oratory, Lacey Pierson 3rd Place for Poetry, Carter Anderson and Tori Anderson 7th Place for Cross Examination Debate, Lacey Pierson and Celeste Baca 6th Place for Cross Examination Debate.
“Speech and debate changes lives,” Gargas stated. “From building confidence, improving communication, and increasing critical thinking skills to better preparing students for college—speech and debate activities provide life skills vital to a young person’s success in the future.”
Harding Fine Arts Academy is an Oklahoma City charter school that prepares high school students for college in an academically challenging, arts-integrated environment.
As a charter school, admission is open to all students with a vested interest in the Arts. However, HFAA does use auditions and testing for placement. HFAA is a public, charter high school; there is no tuition.
HFAA was founded in 2005 by the late John L. Belt and the HFAA Board of Directors with the vision that “education was not just preparation for life; education is life itself.”
Community leaders and fine arts advocates had the belief that a comprehensive education requires more than book knowledge created the vision for HFAA.
In addition to the traditional required academic subjects, including mathematics, English, science, and social studies, students may select as many as three elective classes in dance, music, theatre or visual arts programs.
Some of Oklahoma City’s finest artists and musicians are available as instructors, advisors and artists-in-residence. HFAA opened with 65 students in 9th grade and have grown to an enrollment of 361 students in 9th- 12th grade.
For more information, call 405-702-4322 or visit hardingfinearts.org.