line between guidance and judgment. “Speech and debate has really helped me in being a moderator,” Delanya says. “I’m able to synthesize information, see multiple sides of an issue, and look at people with an open mind.” Her involvement with both youth advisory councils has shaped how she views service and leadership. “Being a leader is about taking a stand for something you believe in, even if you are doing things that sometimes seem insignificant,” she says. “You have to recognize that even the smallest thing can mean the world to someone. When you’re helping others, you can never really underestimate your power as one person to make a difference.” Delanya has learned that small actions are powerful, and that sometimes all a person needs is a shoulder to lean on or someone to listen. “I didn’t work with thousands of people, only to those who were open to speaking with me,” she says. “But I still recognize that my helping those people and listening to what they were going through meant a lot to them.” Her coach Vegas certainly agrees, having watched Delanya strive to improve her community and her school during her four years on the SpeakFirst team. “Delanya demonstrates remarkable insight and a deep commitment to equality,” Vegas says. “She continually searches for ways to further expand her skills and become a more effective agent of change.” Delanya has learned to walk a fine line between confidentiality and support. She clearly recalls a conversation with one woman who was overcome with emotion about her diagnosis. “Even though I had experience with explaining sensitive issues in debate, it’s very different when you’re talking about someone’s livelihood.” In that moment, Delanya focused on just being there and showing the woman that she had people supporting her. “It’s important to show them that they’re not alone. That there are people, even if they aren’t your family, who are there to help you without judgment.” It was moments like these that helped Delanya to view service in a new light. “To me, service is how you can make someone else’s day better just by being yourself and standing up for what you believe in.”
Delanya poses with her award.
Delanya began speech and debate in the eighth grade with LincolnDouglas Debate. In high school she transitioned to Public Forum, and while she’s worked with many different partners, the constant has been her love for the activity. “My favorite topic was definitely the Voting Rights topic1 my sophomore year,” Delanya says. “It really showed me how when you’re debating issues, whether national or international, these resolutions are not abstract ideas that don’t apply to the real world. They continue to develop and change as we’re debating. We aren’t just confronting theoretical narratives, but problems that exist every day.” It’s her passion for these real world problems and her experience with effecting change in her community that has shaped her future plans. After graduation, Delanya plans to pursue a career in public policy. Wherever she ends up, Delanya’s new community will be changed for the better. Annie Reisener serves as the Association’s Operations Coordinator.
The 2014 February PF topic was, Resolved: The Supreme Court rightly decided that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act violated the Constitution.
Delanya exemplifies the profound burden speech and debate students have; that is, the burden of taking the knowledge and skills we build and sharing it with others through service. She’s an inspiration.” — Walter Paul, 2014 William Woods Tate, Jr., National Student of the Year
The winner of the 2017 Exemplary Student Service Award was chosen by a panel of previous William Woods Tate, Jr., National Student of the Year Award winners including Walter Paul (2014), Jarrius Adams (2015), and Marshall Webb (2016).
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Volume 91 Issue 4