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HPU speech and debate team brings home two national champions

BROWNWOOD – May 8, 2020 –  Howard Payne University’s Student Speaker Bureau (SSB) speech and debate team competed at the National Christian College Forensics Association national championship tournament in early March, with team members Alek Mendoza and Rishona Raub earning gold as national champions.

Mendoza, a junior from Bangs majoring in theatre, earned the title of national champion in open dramatic interpretation and third place overall in program oral interpretation. Both events are interpretive events in which the competitor reads a piece or compilation of literature.

Mendoza was praised by Dr. Julie Welker, professor of communication, chair of the Department of Communication and coach of the SSB speech and debate team.

“Alek was an excellent competitor last year on both the national and state circuits and he has done remarkably well this year,” she said. “Earning the title of national champion in his second year of college competition is quite impressive. Alek was a solid high school competitor as well, and he has been a strong leader for our team.”

Raub, a sophomore from Celina majoring in the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and strategic communication, was awarded national champion in novice extemporaneous speaking. She also advanced to semi-finals in impromptu speaking and was a quarterfinalist in International Public Debate Association (IPDA) style debate.

“Rishona joined the team with a slew of high school awards, and she has been very competitive all year,” said Welker. “Advancing to finals in all three of her events at the national level is remarkable. I love seeing her hard work pay off. She will be a force to be reckoned with next year.”

Additionally, Devin Schurman, a freshman from San Antonio majoring in the Honors Academy, strategic communication and social science with an emphasis in public policy, placed fifth in novice extemporaneous speaking.

In parliamentary debate, two of the top 10 junior varsity debate speakers were from HPU. Schurman and partner Parker Brown, a sophomore from Springfield, Va., majoring in the Honors Academy and social science with an emphasis in jurisprudence, placed fourth and fifth respectively and they advanced to semi-finals as a team.

Welker said that these two debaters, both in their first year on the team, are outstanding.

“They have brought our overall debate expertise to another level,” she said. “They lost in semis on a 2-1 decision to a very good team, making it a close round. I am very proud of their work ethic and performance.”

The entire HPU team won second place in Individual Events Sweepstakes for Division II schools (based on the number of team entries). Also competing at the tournament were Esmeralda Maldonado, a senior from Whitney majoring in strategic communication and social science with an emphasis in jurisprudence, and Rayden Hicks, a freshman from San Angelo majoring in strategic communication and youth ministry.

“Our young team has had strong records during prelims and our students all competed very well in individual events all year long. Bringing home two national champions was just the icing on the cake this year,” said Welker.

In addition to the student awards, Welker was awarded the National Christian College Forensics Association Service Award, recognizing her for 15 years of service to the organization and for serving as treasurer of the organization since 2010.

HPU competed against 22 colleges and universities from all over the United States. Competing schools are all members of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities or have signed the faith statement of the National Christian College Forensics Association. The tournament was held at Grove City College, in Grove City, Penn.

The HPU speech and debate team plans to resume their competition schedule in the fall and will kick off the season by hosting the Heart of Texas Tournament for intercollegiate speech and debate September 25-27.


Cutline: Pictured are HPU SSB speech and debate team coach Dr. Julie Welker and team members Parker Brown; Esmerelda Maldonado; Rayden Hicks; Alek Mendoza; Devin Schurman; and Rishona Raub.

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