Palomar College’s Speech and Debate team has been hauling in the trophies in the past year, receiving recognition in regional contests and in national and international competitions.

One of the most recent honors came at the International Forensics Association competition in Dublin, Ireland, when Palomar College student Cipriana Rodriguez made it to the finals in two events. She placed sixth in Prose Interpretation and was awarded fourth place in Persuasive Speaking. Palomar College was one of 41 institutions of higher education from around the United States to compete in the event.

“It was a really interesting experience,” Rodriguez said. “You get to see the differences in how people compete in terms of their acting styles and speaking styles. You see so much diversity.”

The costs for the trip, which also included debater Zac Dybeck, Director of Debate Brandan Whearty and Assistant Director Jordan Kay, was funded through a grant from the Palomar College Foundation.

While the two team members were in Ireland, the rest of the team competed in a state speech tournament in Concord with impressive results. The team members took the following awards: Dia Hill, bronze in Impromptu; Kat Caldwell, bronze in Prose and gold in Impromptu; and Jesse Stirling, silver in the International Public Debate Association Debate and selection as the top speaker at the event. With those awards, Palomar College won first place in the Limited Entry Division sweepstakes.

During the 2023-2024 school year, the Speech and Debate team participated in 12 tournaments in southern California and won 50 trophies.

Marquesa Cook Whearty, assistant director of the Speech and Debate team, is proud of the students on the team.

“I feel speech and debate students are some of the best that the college has to offer,” she said. “You can feel the energy and the enthusiasm that the students give to the events.”

Rodriguez said she started debating while a student at Mission Vista High School, and she said a big reason why she went to Palomar College was because of its renowned Speech and Debate team.

“The really cool thing about speech and debate is you get to meet people from many schools and people with different backgrounds,” she said. “It gives you an opportunity to make connections where otherwise you wouldn’t have.”

Rodriguez said she appreciates the support she has gotten from the coaches for the Palomar College team, both in helping students be better debaters and beyond.

“The entire staff really care about students beyond what they do at the tournaments,” she said. “They care about them as people. Being able to have that security is really helpful.”

Cook Whearty, who previously was a student on the Palomar College debate team, said she appreciated having someone truly listen to her when she was a student debater.

“It was incredibly transformative for me,” she said. “For me to share that with others and to work with students like Cipriani and Zak is a gift.”