Over the course of her interpretive event, Lafayette senior Aleigha Hammett uses the booklet containing her speech as multiple props, including a cellphone and a gun.
Hammett is the first Lafayette High School student ever to qualify for the National Speech and Debate tournament, which will be held in Dallas the week of June 16, and her individual presentation isn’t a topic to be taken lightly: the 1999 Columbine shootings.
It’s a topic that Hammett says she is passionate about, and organizing a 10-minute interpretive presentation took time, as she is required to have three different sources of media, from spoken word, news articles, scripts and transcripts to name a few.
“I have a transcript from the Columbine 911 library call that I interpretive act since it’s an acting event, and I have a spoken word poetry on school shootings,” she says. “I do have a Ted Talk as well from the mom of Dylan Klebold, who was one of the Columbine shooters.”
Participating in multiple contests, Hammett’s upcoming trip to nationals will require her to test her skills against the best in the country.
It’s an exciting opportunity, and the ability to speak on something she’s passionate about makes the process more natural despite the subject matter.
“A lot of people feel like they don’t have a voice, and that’s not true. Speak out for what you’re passionate about. It really does pay off. I go up there and I do what I do because it frustrates me that this is still happening almost two decades later. It’s something that’s very important to me,” she says. “But it’s honestly an honor. To even just make it to semi-finals and finals at those tournaments is crazy. To just hear your name called out on stage that you’re going to Dallas ... it’s wild.”
Dr. Michael Shane Heard, a drama and English teacher at Lafayette, is in his first year taking over speech and debate, and he says he’s inherited a stellar program.
“This whole season has been about a team that was pretty small last year, and we’ve worked and quadrupled the size of the team,” Heard says. “The running joke in our team now is ‘Lafayette who?’ Constantly people would go, ‘Who’s Lafayette? What do you mean they’re in the semi finals? Lafayette from St. Louis? No, St. Joe? Oh, wow!’ If nothing else, what it’s really done is it’s helped us as a school get some of that recognition.”
He says it’s important for students participating to understand timing, emphasis and a host of other skills to fully deliver their points, and he is proud of what the teams have accomplished. Hammett and her teammate, Dakota Nattier, placed sixth in the Duo National Qualifiers and will be in districts qualifying for state next.
It’s certainly a lot for the students to take in, but in the end, Heard says activities like these are incredibly important.
“As a student, get involved with something,” he says. “Football, basketball, choir, theater, band – that’s awesome. But the kids who are sitting around not doing anything, they don’t enjoy their high school experience, they don’t grow and get better.”