The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Speech and debate team sweeps state championship

Natalia Ferruggia ‘26 earned the title of Individual Sweepstakes Champion with three first place finishes. (Photo courtesy of Natalia Ferruggia ’26)

Lafayette’s Speech and Debate team won the Pennsylvania Forensic Association Championship this past weekend with several individual members of the team placing amongst the top performers in their respective events. 

Natalia Ferruggia ‘26 earned the title of Individual Sweepstakes Champion in the state of Pennsylvania, scoring first in three events: impromptu speaking, informative speaking and prose. She also placed third in dramatic interpretation. 

“I really love my informative speech,” Ferruggia said. “It’s about this phenomenon called vacation cutting, where first-generation American women from immigrant families when they’re kids, they’ll get taken back to the countries where their parents are from under false pretenses in order to undergo genital mutilation.” 

Even within activist groups regarding female genital mutilation, this specific experience for American women is not often discussed. 

“I really liked that speech for the advocacy of it,” Ferruggia said. “It’s sometimes hard to give because it is very serious, but I hope that when I perform it to people they get something out of it and that it truly does inform people.”

Ferruggia also performed a prose piece about a woman who finds out her 20-year-old daughter died while she was on a study abroad trip.

“People tend to try to box grief in … and I’m saying that grief isn’t linear and that we shouldn’t be forced to grieve in a counterproductive way because it only hinders our path of healing,” Ferruggia said.

Lastly, Ferruggia performed a dramatic interpretation piece from the perspective of Vivian Vance, the actress who played Ethel Mertz in the show “I Love Lucy.”

“I talk about how women are typecast in performance spaces if they don’t look a certain way and I talk about how I’ve had experiences with that and how forensics has allowed me to abandon my typecast,” Ferruggia said.

Ben Risley ‘26 won second place at the Individual Sweepstakes, earning first place in extemporaneous speaking and rhetorical criticism, second place in informative speaking and fifth place in prose interpretation. 

In extemporaneous speaking, students pick from three prompts and answer the given question in a speech.

“One of the ones I did for the final round was, ‘Is immigration reform a victim of Republican wrangling?’” Risley said. “That was a little bit of a toughy to answer.”

Risley’s informative speech focused on legal protection for the environment. 

“That one [was] about Rights of Nature doctrine and legal guardianship for environmental spaces, which I think [is] a bit niche,” Risley said. 

Holly Smyth ‘27 also earned first place in persuasive speaking, meaning she will go on to the Interstate Oratorical Association tournament later this year at the University of Illinois Chicago. This is Smyth’s first year competing at a speech tournament. 

“I was a little bit worried because I had no experience with [speech] in high school, but then I found myself being really welcomed in by the coaches and by the team captains and I felt like there was a really good sense of camaraderie right off the bat,” Smyth said. 

William Gutiérrez ‘27 shared similar sentiments regarding being a first-year student on the team, describing an encouraging, tight-knit environment. 

“Obviously we are competing to do well, but at the same time, it’s not like that toxic level of competition,” Gutiérrez said. “We’re all very supportive.”

The team will go on to compete at the National Speech Championship in March and the National Forensic Association national tournament in April.

Disclaimer: Assistant Culture Editor Natalia Ferruggia ’26 did not contribute writing or reporting.

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