Yash is a top student, and a leader on the defending National Champion PCDS Middle School Speech and Debate team. Recently, the PCDS Middle School Speech and Debate team received a special invitation to compete in the Columbia University High School Speech and Debate Tournament in New York City. They were the only Middle School team in attendance, competing against some of the nation’s top high school debaters from over 120 high schools from 25 different states and four countries. Yash competed in the Prose and Poetry events, and over the course of two days at the tournament, was crowned overall champion in the event, besting a senior from Bronx Science High School in New York City! To see a fourteen-year- old boy competing against these polished young men in each of these events, and for Yash to maintain his poise and determination was amazing!
Q. What directed your interest in speech and debate?
A. Speech and Debate has always been more to me than simply giving a performance for several minutes. It has truly changed my life in a way that no other extracurricular activity ever could have. My passion for Speech and Debate had always been present before I joined the team itself. I had a developing interest in debating, public speaking, and acting- the core of Speech and Debate itself. In fact, one of the key reasons I joined Phoenix Country Day School was for its Speech and Debate program. I had numerous friends attending Phoenix Country Day who were on the Speech and Debate team and described all the amazing opportunities and impacts of the program. I decided to join the team the first year I joined PCDS (6th grade) and continued as I realized it truly leaves an impact on my life and society.
Q. Can you tell us about your recent win at Columbia University?
A. The National Tournament at Columbia was truly a life-changing experience. It brought me closer to the people I love and also introduced a myriad of unique performances at the high school level. The event in which I won first place in is called Oral Interp in the Catholic Forensic League- the league in which Columbia participates in. The National Speech and Debate Association, as well as our school, recognizes this event as Prose and Poetry. These are both ten-minute pieces performed by a single individual. In Prose, the competitor chooses ten minutes (according to the CFL rules) of a piece of literature and performs it for an audience. I chose ‘Saturday Boy’ by David Fleming, a story in which a young boy is forced to deal with the death of his father, whom he loves dearly. Poetry, on the other hand, is an event in which the competitor selects various different poems and categorizes them into one singular message or argument. I took a compilation of poems and forged the program ‘Growing Up With Trump,’ expressing what it is like for a young Indian boy to go through the chaos, terror, and tension in our current nation. Both of these pieces helped me win, however, I hope that it is more about the message the audience received than the trophy I carried home.
Q. Do you hope to continue speech and debate in your future education? Career?
A. Speech and Debate have definitely impacted my passions and decisions. I am definitely more open to class presentations and speeches than I was before, which impacted my decision to participate in Kidz4Causes- a volunteer organization dedicated to donating money to children with rare diseases. I undoubtedly will continue this program in some way, shape, or form, whether it be public speaking, debating, acting, leadership, volunteer, etc. because of how beneficial it has been to my education and personality. I also hope to implement it into my career in the near future as it has become a vital part of my daily life.
Q. What kind of poetry and essays do you write?
A. I write a multitude of various essays and poetry, mainly to express my opinions and provide a different perspective on the world. I write everything from the literary analysis papers required by our english curriculum to short stories and research papers addressing ongoing societal issues. However, this is more prominent in poetry, as I prefer a more artistic way of expressing messages rather than the structure of a sentence. Ongoing patterns of my writing include enduring racism, gender equality, and L.G.B.T. activism. Writing has always been an essential part of not only school and education, but a clear way to send a powerful message.
Q. What inspires your movie and song writing?
A. I am extremely fond of the whole category of “art” itself, which opens a gateway to filmmaking, music, and visual arts to go along with poetry and speaking. I enjoy forging my own music, beats, and rhythm through freestyle rapping, music-making applications such as Garage Band, or simply listening to a great song. However, filmmaking is surprisingly more prominent than music in my life. Incorporating music, videos, photos, and your own voice, filmmaking is the combination of all my passions in one. Using a single camera and a good idea, one can create a story even when you have nothing. The same concept of public speaking applies with my interest for music and filmmaking: sending a message.
Q. How has PCDS prepared you for high school?
A. PCDS has an exceptional, well-balanced academic curriculum. They succeed in balancing out their unique and advanced courses with exceptional extracurricular activities. Their renowned Speech and Debate team, phenomenal Lego Robotics Club, and life-changing Minitown “retreat” are just a few examples of the amazing clubs PCDS offers to go along with their top academics. All these extracurriculars and advanced courses have molded me into a future confident high school student. Through their talented faculty, friendly students, and flourishing campus, PCDS creates an environment that will prepare a student for anything.
Yash Wadwekar is an eighth grader at Phoenix Country Day School.