Parkland Speech and Debate Team offers skills for education and beyond

Matthew Moss

Staff Writer

Parkland’s Speech and Debate Team seeks to improve students’ critical thinking and speaking skills, which can help them both inside and outside of the classroom.

Brian Cafarelli, one of the team’s two coaches and a communications instructor at Parkland, says making the team the best that he can is his goal.

“Our business is trying to make perfection,” Cafarelli said.  “Improvement is a process of losses.  We try to bank those losses and improve on them.”

Cafarelli believes the speech and debate team is something every Parkland student should join.

He says the public speaking prowess garnered from the experience can be applied to many different career paths and open up unique opportunities.

Being good at public speaking is not a requirement to join the team.  Learning is part of the experience and improvement is the only expectation.

Anna Addams, a first-year criminal justice education student here at Parkland, has had an interest in speech and debate since before her high school days.  An aspiring actress, she was attracted to her high school’s speech team by the connections she drew between speech and acting.

Photo by Brian Cafarelli | Parkland College Left to right: Nick Scott, Ethan Young, Mario Flemming and Eric Miller stand with their awards after the Illinois Intercollegiate Forensics Association State Tournament on Saturday, March 7, 2015.

Photo by Brian Cafarelli | Parkland College
Left to right: Nick Scott, Ethan Young, Mario Flemming and Eric Miller stand with their awards after the Illinois Intercollegiate Forensics Association State Tournament on Saturday, March 7, 2015.

“Speech is a competitive acting for me,” Addams said.  “It’s bettering my acting skills.”

It is not only acting skills that Addams wants to gain from her experiences in speech and debate.  She also seeks to improve herself as a person and acquire skills that she can use in every aspect of her life.

With her major, she is looking to become a criminal defense attorney.  She believes that the skills she learns from speech and debate, including the acting skills, will help her in the legal arena.

Team membership comes with the perk of a scholarship, which pays for all of the next year’s class expenses except textbooks.

The team competes at various tournaments throughout the country.  The team has travelled to national competitions in Oregon, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, among others.

The team placed second at last year’s national tournament.  Eric Miller, a former member of the speech and debate team, brought home a first-place award in public narrative.

In these national tournaments, two-year schools like Parkland square off against four-year universities.  Cafarelli doesn’t think competitors from four-year schools have an advantage over Parkland students.

“Everyone competes equally,” Cafarelli said.  “I don’t think it’s fair to say that Parkland students are not as smart, or gifted, or talented as students from four-year [schools].”

Nathan Stewart, who is also a coach and a communications instructor at Parkland, says providing students with opportunities to enhance the thinking and communication skills they use every day is the primary mission of the team.  Giving students the ability to think and act for themselves is an important aspect of the team’s philosophy.

For those turned off from joining the team by the fear of public speaking, Addams says the best way to overcome the fear is to face it, over and over again.  She is nervous going into every competition, but her nervousness subsides once she gets going.

“I just shake off my nerves and I just dive into it,” Addams said.  “You’ll get over your nerves pretty quickly.”

She reiterated that the benefits of being on the team far outweigh any public speaking fears one might have.

Anyone looking to join the team should contact Brian Cafarelli or Nathan Stewart in C127.