For the eighth time since 1988, students from Shawnee High School qualified to compete in a national-level National Forensics League competition scheduled for June 13-21 in Birmingham, Ala.


For the eighth time since 1988, students from Shawnee High School qualified to compete in a national-level National Forensics League competition scheduled for June 13-21 in Birmingham, Ala.
The students who qualified are 2009 SHS graduate Heather Swadley and Dalton Smith, vice president in charge of media for the school’s NFL chapter.
“Everyone always says to learn all you can, to take it all and go do something to make a difference in the real world once you graduate,” Sharon Davis, NFL director and coach, said. “These kids are already doing that. They are already making a difference.”
The NFL is an honor society that began in 1925 for speech and debate with male participants only, Smith said. Later, girls were accepted but competed separately from the boys until the 1970s, when they merged the competitions.
Shawnee’s chapter was chartered in 1961, lapsed for a three-year period, then began again in the late 1980s.
Eligibility for national competitions requires participants maintain a 3.0 GPA or better, perform in the top two-thirds of their class and participate in several formal public speaking events in front of adults, Davis said.
Determination is also based on how students perform in district competitions.
“Six main speech events, four types of debate competition, two consolation speech events and four supplemental speech events produce national champions at the end of an action-packed week of competition,” the NFL Web site, www.nflonline.org, stated. “Winning students are rewarded with outstanding trophies and over $130,000 in college scholarships.”
Swadley is the first NFL member from Shawnee to “max out on points” within the organization. She is also the first to have more than 1600 points earned in her four high school years.
She received promise of a Parliamentary Debate scholarship totaling about $20,000 throughout a four-year period and will attend William Jewell College in Missouri as a political communications major as a result of her NFL membership and competitions.
Swadley qualified in two event categories but was required to select only one for the national competition. She chose International Extemporaneous Speaking rather than the Lincoln-Douglas debate.
Swadley said she remembers the state final question she was asked and her favorite topic.
“The state final question was ‘Is there a chance for a stable ruling coalition in Zimbabwe?’” she said. “My favorite topic was about Sri Lanka. I don’t know why, but I really liked that one.”
Smith’s favorite topic was one he was asked during the final round of a tournament held in Jenks.
“It was the final round and the question was, ‘How has the iPhone revolutionized cell phone technology?” Smith said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Smith considers himself a huge fan of the iPhone and often attempts to persuade even those he’s just met to go out and purchase one right away, so the question was one he could respond to fully and with passion.
Smith said he’s learned a lot since he first began traveling with the NFL as a seventh grader, too young to compete at that time.
“I’m known around here for flying by the seat of my pants,” he said. “But after the competition at Harvard, that all changed. Now, I know that sources are very important.”
Smith, who will be a senior next school year, has earned a total of 556 points so far. He has competed in numerous competitions, with most held in the Tulsa area.
He will compete in the U.S. Extemporaneous Speaking event during the national competition and a supplementary event.
Other NFL members will join the qualifying pair on the trip to Alabama. Each has responsibilities as organization officers that prepare them to leave high school and enter career fields immediately, Davis said.
These responsibilities include Smith’s and Rijul Grupta’s duties to develop and maintain the team’s Web site, web.me.com/dzinr; Jenna McDonald’s duties as spirit leader, which is much like a public relations position; Logan Davis’ photographic duties; Ryan Grider and Robert Woodmore’s marketing and fundraising duties; and the leadership and organizational duties of Michael McLaughlin, NFL president.
McLaughlin said building rapport with judges is the most difficult part of the tournaments.
“The hardest thing is relating to the judges,” he said. “You can study and study, but getting that connection is the most important.”
But the benefits of membership in the organization stretch beyond winning competitions, gaining scholarship possibilities or developing career skills, the group agreed.
“It really helps with self confidence,” Logan Davis said. “The hardest part about keeping up with the debates is knowing current events — everything that happens right around and right before you compete.”
Woodmore said his NFL membership is the most rewarding organization he’s participated in while attending school.
“I’ve played football, track, all kinds of sports, but this is the funnest thing,” he said. “This helps me get better and better. I didn’t think I’d like it at first, but now, I’m addicted.”