HELENA — As Speech and Debate teams across the Class AA inch toward their state tournament in Helena, Helena Public Schools is asking for a helping hand from the community by requesting people sign up as a volunteer judge for this year's event.
The event will be on Friday and Saturday, January 28-29 at Helena High School.
Judging for speech and debate is done on a volunteer basis, and by Helena High head coach Jennifer Hermanson's estimation, they'll need approximately 2,000 hours worth of volunteer work and there are a few reasons why.
"It's so important to have the community involved because we need the manpower, but it also these students, that's going to be their audience when they grow up. When they go out into the working world, and they go out into college or the workplace. The people that they're trying to persuade, the people they're trying to convince, the people they're trying to communicate with are members of the community," said Hermanson. "They learn how to communicate with a variety of people, and how to make their messages, their arguments, their presentations, their words matter to the average person in the community."
Though it may seem like a daunting task both Hermanson and Helena Capital head coach JW McClintic noted it's not an all-day requirement to volunteer, they're asking for a few hours of time.
"It requires no experience. It requires no upfront commitments or anything else. It's, you know, you sign up, you show up, you'll receive a ballot and a room assignment and you go spend an hour, an hour and a half, watching a performance and then you fill out your ballot, you go to the hospitality room and get a snack that's been provided by the community and go on with your day," said McClintic. "It's not like it's a 12-hour commitment or anything else like that."
Though McClintic and Hermanson may see their students on a regular basis performing or practicing for their events on a regular basis, the two believe the community can learn a lot from helping out.
"A lot of the kids that do Speech and Debate are really, really talented, really brilliant. And it's a really cool way for them to kind of get out there and express themselves," said McClintic. "It's really about them being better, better humans; better, better people at the end of the season."
"It's so easy to become — to see the future as bleak. And then I come in and watch my students and they inspire me. They are the future leaders and they give me so much hope for how great our country and our community will be with them at the helm."
Last season, the entirety of the Speech and Debate competitions were held online due to COVID-19 restrictions and now that students finally have the opportunity to go back to a large scale tournament, they're really looking forward to it.
"As strange as this sounds, but it was very lonely. I was in a room alone for hours on end, but this year, it's so nice to just sit there and listen to people's speeches and to see the faces of people and to know their reaction," said Helena Capital sophomore Olivia Davidson.
With the return of other large-scale tournaments across the state for sports like volleyball and wrestling, students who compete in speech and debate are simply just looking forward to the opportunity to compete on a similar level.
"Yes, we're competing against each other. But we're also like, friendly, and we'll be like, 'You could have done this better in your piece,' or, 'I really liked that piece,'" said Helena High junior Lorely Drees. "I think that that's what really drew me to speech and debate, and because it's a really fun thing to do."
If you would like to volunteer as a judge, please click here.