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How speech and debate changed one teen's life

The day Brittne Lunniss stepped into her speech and debate class, her life changed.

Now a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, Brittne was actively involved in drama. She thought about doing acting or drama after high school. Now she is getting ready to go Pacific Lutheran University, with a $20,000 scholarship, to study pre-law.

"It molded my career plans," Lunniss said. "It turned into my passion. It flipped my world around as to where I think I should be headed."

She joined the school's speech and debate team as a freshman, thinking that the speech aspect of the class would be similar to the stage. In speech, participants memorize and read a 10-minute dialogue. There are no costumes or props. Students dress in suits and pantomime their actions.

Students then compete in events, some locally and some — if they make it — nationally.

Lunniss has made it. In May, she will participate in the Tournament of Champions, in the Dramatic Interpretation and Humorous Interpretation categories. In June, she will participate in nationals in in the Dramatic Interpretation category.

To qualify for nationals, participants must be in the top two at the state event. For the Tournament of Champions, participants have to consistently be the best throughout the year, Lunniss said.

About 50 students are involved in the program at TJHS. This year, they won third in state as a team under the direction of their coach, Andrew Buchan.

Also attending Tournament of Champions and nationals is fellow speech competitor Sheila Ojeaburu, who qualified in the Oratory category. Jon Mount has made it to nationals.

The club practices every week after school, and will even have some before school practices right before nationals. Lunniss, as the team president this year, also helps others practice.

"It really consumed my life in a positive way," Lunniss said.

It was her skill at debate that helped her land her $20,000 scholarship and a spot on PLU's nationally ranked speech and debate team.

Her favorite part about the speech and debate program is the people she meets.

"They're really down to earth," she said. "You can get really mixed up in high school, but speech and debate kids are amazing people to be around."

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