Debate students become first in Vandegrift history to qualify for TFA State


Brianne Chase, Staff reporter

Because of their successful performances in debate competitions, this year Natalee Chu and Donovan Dickerson will be the first debate club students in Vandegrift history to qualify for and compete at TFA (Texas Forensic Association) State. Texas is the most competitive state for debate in the nation, so qualifying for the competition, which will be held March 11-13, is a big step for the debate program.

[Texas has] a lot of very large schools with a lot of money to put in to try to get their people in as many tournaments as possible to qualify,” Dickerson said. “By qualifying, I’m already really excited for the future of Vandegrift debate. I’m hoping to do well, but it’s a whole [different] bracket, I’ve never competed against people as good as the people I’m about to compete against. So I’m already excited, but I’m a little bit cautious about getting my hopes up for performance there.”

In order to qualify for TFA State, debaters have to obtain a total of 10 TFA points, which they earn by making certain places in tournaments. Though Dickerson and Chu have already put in the work they needed to qualify, both students continue to diligently practice and prepare so that they can perform their best at competition.

“I’ve always loved speaking,” Chu said. “I got second place in my district’s speech contest in eighth  grade, and that’s kind of what motivated me to do better in high school. And once I started getting points, it really motivated me to get all the way to state.”

Chu competes in foreign extemporaneous speaking, and as club president she has a strong, motivating passion for debate.

“As the president, I want to set a good example for everyone else, and I want to show everyone that, even though we’re a newer debate program, Vandegrift can do just as well as some of the other more robust, older debate teams,” Chu said.

According to Dickerson, one thing he really enjoys about debate is the subjects he studies for it.

“With debate there’s so many opportunities with what we can argue, and about what possibilities there are for cases,” Dickerson said. “There’s no limit to the things that I could find. I’ve invested my time a lot into queer theory, and it’s really fun to argue that kind of thing for me. I like [that] ability to branch out and try new arguments and the ability to reliably win if I try my best.”

The topic for TFA State was released on Feb.1, and the competition will be held at Gregory Portland High School in Portland, Texas. Dickerson and Chu will have until about this time next month to prepare.

“I’m really nervous, because I know that it will be against the best debaters in the state, but also I’m really proud, because I did a lot of this preparation myself, and I worked really hard for this, because when I came here I didn’t really know anything about ‘extem’, and a lot of this preparation was done by myself,” Chu said. “So [I feel] really excited, really nervous, and really proud.”