Imperial County Migrant Students Speak Up at Annual Debate Competition

The Holtville Middle School debate team members all smile proudly as they receive their first place trophy.

IMPERIAL — When asked make a public speech, most people would shudder at the thought and not want to go anywhere near the stage — but that is not the case for a group of migrant students from Imperial Valley.

The Imperial County Office of Education hosted the Eighth Annual Migrant Speech and Debate Competition Saturday at Imperial Valley College where 80 students from 13 Imperial Valley schools competed for the title of best speech and debate team.

According to Sandra Kofford, ICOE Migrant Director and the creator of the Migrant Speech and Debate Competition, the event is meant to help empower the students to say what they think. It also encourages the students to get involved in extra-curricular activities at their school, not just in speech and debate.

“I saw that it empowers the students and that is allows them to have a voice,” said Kofford. “We want them to become well-informed citizens.”

Students and their teachers have been preparing for this competition since August and September, going over facts and topics to be used in their speeches.

Kitzia Cruz, age 11, and Arlen Leyva, age 9, are two first place winners from Brawley.

The competition was split between three categories: prepared speech, extemporaneous or improvised speech, and debate. Students from fourth grade to high school competed against each other for third, second, and first place in individual competitions.

The debates were also split into middle school and high school categories. This year, Holtville Middle School and High School took first place in their respective grades.

Many students admitted they were nervous to speak, but they also appeared filled with excitement rather than fear when they presented.

“I was kind of nervous a little bit, but I love to say my speech,” said Aylany Gamez, a fifth grader from Meadows Elementary School.

“I liked presenting my speech to the judges,” said Naomy Marquez of Holtville.

“My favorite part is when we did research for facts and when you get to practice to get better and better each time,” said Arlen Leyva, a nine year old fourth grader from Brawley who won first place in both the prepared and improvised speeches.

Winners went up to receive certificates, medals, and trophies with big smiles and cheers in the background. The Imperial Valley College center shook with the cheers of support from friends, family, and teachers who had helped the students prepare.