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SBS Sends Two Competitors World Debate Championships in South Africa

SBS students Sophie Hathaway ’18 and Julia Thayer ’18 had a phenomenal experience at the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championship in Cape Town, South Africa.

The students were members of the U.S. team competing at the world level April 5-15, 2018 and were among competitors from a diverse mix of high schools from countries as far reaching as Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, England, South Africa, Lithuania, Pakistan, Cyprus, Argentina, Botswana, Israel, India, South Korea, Zimbabwe, and Germany.

Members of the SBS Debate and Public Speaking Society, Hathaway and Thayer were accompanied on the trip by SBS faculty member Karen Pleasant, co-head debate coach, history teacher, and a teacher at SBS’s summer debate and public speaking program A Voice of Her Own.

Sophie Hathaway ’18, Coach Karen Pleasant, and Julia Thayer ’18

This was the second year in a row that Hathaway qualified for and traveled to the world championship. Last year, she traveled with SBS faculty member Karen Suchenski, a debate coach and middle school Humanities teacher, to Sydney, Australia. Read more about her experience here.

Hathaway and Thayer join an elite group of world competitors from SBS dating back to 1988. They are among the 17 SBS students to earn spots at the world debate and public speaking championship. See the full list here.

Both students placed in After Dinner Speaking, with Sophie placing 9th and Julia earning 13th place in that category. Thayer also placed 5th in Interpretive Reading and earned 19th overall. She also captured 11th place in the girls’ division, and earned 2nd place out of all U.S. female competitors.

Thayer said, “Going to Worlds with Sophie was really helpful. We are best friends and this was the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to travel together and share this amazing experience. It was amazing and I owe a lot to Karen Pleasant, who, having traveled there before, was able to talk to us about the history of apartheid and all about South African history. I also made new friends from a variety of cultures and we are still in touch.”

Hathway said, “Qualifying for worlds both in 2017 and in 2018 was truly an honor, as it is a physical representation of all of the hard work that both I and my coaches had put in over the years to make it happen. I would not be the speaker I am today without the support of my coaches Cyndee Meese, Paul Basset, Jacob Steward, and Karen Pleasant.

Hathaway added, “I have also been blessed to be able to share this passion with my best friend and co-captain Julia Thayer. I have never felt more proud of someone as I did watching Julia excel in Cape Town. Worlds is, first and foremost a competition, but overall it is a chance to share a space with talented and friendly people who, due to the multicultural nature of the competition, each bring their own individual perspectives to a global issue. Worlds has been an experience I will never forget, and I feel deeply grateful for the opportunities like this one that Stoneleigh-Burnham has given me in the past six years of my time here.”