Marya Lujan Acosta got into speech and debate at Odessa High School to learn about politics and what’s going on in the world.

The 17-year-old junior was a qualifier for UIL Congress, also referred to as UIL Debate, and is preparing for a UIL academic contest March 23 at Frenship High School.

For UIL Congress, Acosta said contestants spent most of their time on whether the United States should be more involved in North Korea and genetically modified organisms, how they should be labeled and how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should change their regulations.

Acosta said the students have to take one side or the other on the topics.

OHS Speech and Debate Coach Aaron Cox said UIL Congress is like the body at the federal level in that they work on bills to get them passed. Cox said representatives who have watched the students in the UIL event are impressed by their knowledge of Roberts Rules of Order, the research they put in and their knowledge.

Acosta said she got into third place, but didn’t make the finals at UIL Congress.

“It was a good experience,” she said.

Being in speech and debate has been very beneficial, Acosta said.

“Since I’ve been doing Congress, I know somewhat what’s going on with the world. I used to stutter a lot and being in speech and debate has helped me a lot,” she said.

For the poetry competition, students focus on work that has been published and a theme of either examining the world and how it has changed, or a second theme of taking a stand, which Acosta said she chose.

Acosta said she chose a poem called “Last Night I Saw My Life Onstage” about a girl who stood up against her abusive boyfriend. She added that it includes the Billy Holliday song “Summertime.”

Cox said he was pleased with how Acosta did in UIL Congress.

“I think going against the schools like Plano and Richardson, I think she did very well,” Cox said.

He added that the benefits of being in speech and debate are numerous. Cox said he currently has eight students in the program.

“Once they go through a debate program, colleges love to see it on the transcript because we make them research so much farther than English or science do. We make them have to look at both sides, so they have to get a well-rounded view of the world. It helps them be able to present themselves so much better at job interviews or anything else in the real world. There’s nothing they cannot do once they get out of debate. … If they listen to their debate coach, there’s nothing they cannot conquer,” Cox said.

He added that Acosta will be moving to Lincoln-Douglass debate next year.

Acosta said she wants to be a lawyer.

“I think that’s one of the main reasons why I joined debate, so I can argue and see both of the sides because that’s the job for the lawyer to do,” she said.


UIL Speech and Debate: