Memorial Day weekend will mark the first of two championship speech and debate weekends for Bangor High School Speech and Debate students.

Ten students will head to National Catholic Forensic League championships in Philadelphia on May 25-26. In all, the students will represent Bangor High School in the classification of debate. Bangor students will represent the following three categories:

• Student Congress: Senior Andy Chen and freshman Nick Danby.

• Lincoln Douglas Debate: Freshman Tyler DeFroscia.

• Public Forum debate teams: Sophomores Kathryn Nagle and Andy Sandweiss as well as freshmen Sharon Audibert and Elizabeth Robbins. The Philadelphia championship will be Nagle’s second time representing Bangor at a national championship.

In the classification of speech Bangor students will represent the following three categories:

• Original Oratory: Malik Robinson

• Dramatic Interpretation of Literature: Junior Jan Tompkins

• Oral Interpretation of Literature: Senior Allyson Eslm.

Then from June 16-21 three Bangor High School students will travel to Birmingham, Ala., to compete in the National Forensic League National Speech and Debate Tournament:

• Duo Interpretation: Malik Robinson and Jan Tompkins.

• Student Congress: Nick Danby

Junior Brendan Moore qualified under the Domestic Extemporaneous category to go to Birmingham, however, due to a scheduling conflict he will not be going.

This is the third year that Robinson and Tompkins will be going to the national competition.

Students in the BHS Speech and Debate team are part of a long-standing tradition, said debate coach Joe Pelletier, a history teacher at Bangor High since 1990. Pelletier became a debate coach also in 1990 when his children entered high school and expressed an interest in the debate. Dr. Jenn Page is the speech coach.

“Speech kids are more into theater or write their own poetry,” Pelletier said. “Debate [kids] love to argue and tend to be very competitive, play with ideas in their head. Speech and Debate attracts a wide variety of students. We have 45-50 students per year [on our roster].”

Those students are encouraged to try a little bit of each type of speech and debate in order to learn which style fits their skills and interests best.

“What’s neat about competition in Maine is they get to know kids from other schools,” Pelletier said. “They are competitive on stage, but the moment they leave the stage, they’re like best friends.”

Speech and debate is a way for students to learn skills in public speaking, critical thinking skills, the ability to comprehend and break down a topic in an intellectual way, and gain confidence. In addition the extra curricular complements the skills and intellectual development fostered in the classroom.

“Debate and speech meet many of the standards that meet the state and national standards,” Pelletier said.

Speech and debate students pursue careers where public speaking and critical thinking skills are a main part of their jobs. This includes lawyers, actors and people in communications. Sometimes these students even become debate coaches.

This was the case for Pelletier. The skills he learned as part of the Hermon High School debate team benefitted him in college and whetted his appetite to help the next generations of debate students enhance their skills and develop a love of communicating.

Pelletier is confident that what the Bangor students learned will help them do well in the tournaments.