Bison Gold academic UIL team jumpstarts season


mosley photo

UIL Speech Director Jill Henson works with senior Ryan Slatter on his debate case while senior Junior Francisco works on research and junior Kendall Lee works on her prose. Slatter and Francisco are partners for CX debate.

     Years of taking first place in district in academic UIL competition has been interrupted the last two years with second-place finishes. While individuals are still making it to regional and state competition and bringing home medals from those contests, the overall team championship that has been just a few points out of reach for two years. In an effort to change that and bring home the top spot again this year, academic coordinator Melonie Menefee and OAP and speech director Jill Henson worked with principal Tracy Gleghorn to take the competition and preparation up a notch this year.

     “I think not doing as well as we wanted to last year made everyone realize that our district is going to be really hard to win,” senior Jade Morales said. “It’s especially hard in speech events, because our district has a lot of good speakers.”

     The drive to win has prompted some adjustments to the school day, with Gleghorn making room for the creation of a public speaking class that is taught by Henson. The class works on speech preparation, keeps up with current events, and practices speaking exercises to increase their skills when speaking publicly.  The group will head to its first speech meet later this month.

     “There are already speeches being given in class, which is exciting to me,” Menefee said of the class, which she helps Henson with. “Instead of picking pieces in January or February and practicing for a few minutes a week, we were working on them in August. It was a huge jump-start for the speech program.”

     The group is also moving to electronic filing for extemporaneous speaking, leaving behind the heavy file boxes and stacks of newspapers for flash drives and laptops. Henson and Menefee hope that this system will make the speakers more efficient.

     “Just the ability to have hundreds of files on a flash drive rather than in the huge tubs we usually lug from meet to meet is going to make things much easier in the long run,” Menefee said. It is also so much faster to file – we file dozens of articles a day, which leaves us more time to focus on discussing the articles and issues and then practice speaking and speech writing.”

     Beyond the speech team, there has been a lot of work put into recruiting more students and getting everyone involved. The team has been given a name – Bison Gold – with the theme this year of “Taking it Back”. A parent/student meeting at open house gave parents a chance to see what different UIL events in high school were all about. Postcards to students who had participated in UIL in the past, either high school or junior high, encouraged them to sign up. A new website will make it easier for students and parents to know what is going on and what events are coming up. It’s all in an effort to step the performances up a notch.

     “I hope that our school performs well this year in UIL, mainly because I want to leave this school at the end of the year knowing that we tried our best, regardless of the outcome,” senior Preston Mosley said. “I’m excited that there are a lot more students involved this year and I think it will help us out at competition because they are all very bright.”