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Interview with Clara Swartzentruber ’16 on World Debate Tournament

Stoneleigh-Burnham debate team champions

Clara Swartzentruber ’16 (second from right) with her SBS teammates after the October 2015 tournament in which she qualified for the world championship.

Clara Swartzentruber ’16 is a six-year senior from Greenfield, Mass., and member of the Stoneleigh-Burnham School Debate and Public Speaking Society. She is one of two SBS students who has qualified for the U.S. team in the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championship and will travel to Pittsburgh for the competition March 31-April 4.

Clara will join Claire Lane ’16 at the world tournament. This is the first time in SBS’s 150-year history that two students have qualified for this tournament. See the list of students who have qualified for and/or competed at the world championship here.

SBS: How long have you been part of the SBS Debate and Public Speaking Society?

Clara: I’ve been part of the society for all six years of my tenure at Stoneleigh-Burnham.

SBS: How do you feel about Worlds coming up later this month?

Clara: Currently, I’m more nervous than excited about the tournament, but I know that I’ll be so thrilled to be there when we arrive. Any debate tournament is always a great place to network and meet some incredibly intelligent, interesting people, and I’m sure this will be no different.

SBS: How are you preparing?

Clara: One of my favorite things to prepare is to record myself reading my speech and then listening to it around the house as I go about my day in order to memorize it. I’ll also practice my interpretive reading at myself in the mirror, in the shower, while I’m doing laundry, pretty much at any inanimate object that’ll listen.

SBS: What are your thoughts on the fact that this is the first time SBS is sending not one, but two students to this competition?

Clara: I think it’s a great reflection on Stoneleigh-Burnham, our debate program, and particularly the tireless work of our coach, Dr. Paul Bassett, that we’ve got two girls qualified this year, and I’m sure we’ll both rise to meet our own individual challenges and goals.

SBS: Do you have any specific goals in mind for the competition?

Clara: My personal goal for this competition is never to sit down feeling like I could have done more. I’ve felt this before at other tournaments and nothing is worse than feeling like you didn’t quite do your best, and with this being my last major international tournament of my high school career, I would like to close it out feeling like I left everything out there.

SBS: As you look back on your time at SBS, can you talk a little about how debate has affected you or has prepared you for the future?

Clara: In terms of my development while I’ve been at school, debate and public speaking has helped me analyze my thoughts more deeply, see others’ perspectives more clearly, and express myself with the confidence that society has taken away from too many women. I really have PB to thank for that more than anyone – he has known me since the very beginning of my 7th grade year and has guided me in far more than just my speaking skills. Doing my best for him has become as important as doing my best for myself, and I know that his careful coaching and support has been and will continue to be a crucial part of my success.