Debate students choose sides in Hoover

This week, Spain Park High School and Berry Middle School have a chance to show off their state-of-the-art facilities to visitors from all around the country.

The two schools are primary host sites for the 2009 Stars Fell on Alabama National Speech and Debate Tournament, run by the National Forensic League.

More than 3,000 visitors came into town last weekend for Sunday’s opening ceremonies, and they’ll stay until the national champion is crowned Friday.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Hoover City Schools,” said Hoover school system spokesperson Jason Gaston. “This means so much, not just for the city of Hoover, but for the entire area.”

The tournament is expected to bring in more than $4 million to the Hoover area.

“These people aren’t just coming here to compete. They’re coming to eat, to shop and to buy gas,” Gaston said.

Emily Wallin, a debate coach from Niwot High School in Longmont, Colo. who made the trip despite her bout with walking pneumonia, said debate teaches her kids to have confidence and to speak well in public. Also, debate competitions offer her students a chance to travel to diverse places, such as Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Wichita, Kan.

“I think it’s fun because I can see different places,” she said.

Participation on debate teams can help students succeed academically, said Spain Park debate team director Oliver Parker in a press release.

“Current research has shown that participation on debate and speech teams dramatically increases the chance that students will be accepted into top colleges,” he said. “Each year, college entrance becomes increasingly harder and more competitive. Success in debate is a key indicator that students will be successful in college.”

The public is invited to attend the debates. For more information, go to nflonline.org/NationalTournament/NationalTournament.