Harlingen middle schoolers qualify for UIL nationals; to travel to Iowa

dfwnewsa | February 15, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Harlingen middle schoolers qualify for UIL nationals; to travel to Iowa

HARLINGEN — What’s in a name?

Just ask Eric Mendoza.

He’ll tell you about that pain and the agony and the grave responsibility of naming a child in his Humorous Interpretation event.

“The story consists of some other characters and I like to use my poise and my posture to mimic those characters,” said Eric, 14. “I’m ready to go to nationals.”

Eric is one of 24 Harlingen middle school students who have qualified for the 2024 National Speech and Debate Tournament in June. Students from all five middle schools in the Harlingen school district — Vela, Memorial, Coakley, Vernon and Gutierrez — will travel together to Des Moine, Iowa to show their stuff in competition. They’ll compete with students from middle schools throughout the United States.


The kids made the cut Feb. 10 at the HCISD Middle School 2024 National Qualifier at Gutierrez Middle School, said Sally Cavazos Navarro, fine arts specialist for the Harlingen school district.

“We had over 75 compete,” Navarro said. “They were competing for a slot to go to the tournament. We had 12 events they competed in, such as humorous interpretation, dramatic interpretation, prose, poetry, congress. I was so proud of everyone and I’m so excited that all five campuses will get to travel with us.”

The kids are pretty excited, too.

“I’m super excited about going to this year’s nationals because I know what I’m going to do and I’m hoping to win,” said Violet Thompson, 13, a seventh grader at Vernon Middle School.

“This is my second year competing with NSDA Nationals,” she said. “I’m going to be going with Lincoln-Douglas Debate. It’s a college level debate where you are given a topic about something happening around the world in today’s time.”

She further explained that in this event the contestant writes two speeches, the affirmative and the negative. In the affirmative, the contestant agrees with the topic and the negative she disagrees.

“You have to write both because you don’t know which one you are going to be debating with until the actual day,” she said. “So I competed with both and I won first place with zero losses and three wins.”

The students are pushing themselves beyond their known capabilities, even going so far as to spend “Twenty-Three Minutes in Hell.”

That’s the name of the prose piece that 12-year-old Adrian Rivera has been working on and continues to work on in preparation for the Iowa tournament.

“I play a character that somehow goes from the normal human world and gets sucked into Hell,” said Adrian, a seventh grader at Vela.

“Right there he sees what people were saying about Hell was true,” he said. “It’s terrifying but it also is a place of torment and it’s really really horrible.”

But that’s only part of the story.

“In the end he realizes that if he just keeps pushing and keeps going forward in the end you’ll be able to conquer it,” Adrian said. “And he ends up going back to the normal world because Jesus listens to him.”

This is quite a departure from his earlier pieces that were fun and innocent characters with funny stories. It has been a challenge, a challenge he will take with him in a few months to Iowa.

“I feel pretty nervous but at the same time excited because it’s a really good opportunity,” he said.

The post Harlingen middle schoolers qualify for UIL nationals; to travel to Iowa appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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