Senior Mary Talamantez reviews casework for debate. As vice president of Speech and Debate, she often competes once a week. Photo by Sarah Berjan

Senior Mary Talamantez reviews casework for debate. As vice president of Speech and Debate, she often competes once a week. Photo by Sarah Berjan


By Jamilynn Geske




During the 2016-2017 school year, senior Mary Talamantez won the National Speech and Debate Association Academic All-American Award, an award given to students with a high GPA, high SAT or ACT test score and who also participate in a varsity sport.

“I’ve been working towards the award since my freshman year. I’ve been keeping up grades and taking the SAT and the ACT due to the minimum score you have to get to be eligible for the award. I was studying for that, trying to get my scores up so I could qualify,” M. Talamantez said.

Talamantez is currently vice president of Speech and Debate, and has been a member for all four years of high school. When she first joined, M. Talamantez was nervous, however later on was encouraged by her mother, which then brings her to the strong speaker she is today.

“Mary is an extremely successful student,” M. Talamantez’s mother Traci Talamantez said. “We are in awe of how hard Mary works on a daily basis. She rarely goes to bed before midnight. Not only does she spend countless hours completing homework and projects for her classes, she spends even more time working on her Speech and Debate responsibilities.”

Talamantez has put in her time into academics and extracurriculars to help achieve such an award. Throughout high school she gained support from friends and family, along with the help of teachers.

“I have her as a student in Theory of Knowledge, and I have her in IB English – she is very capable in both of those courses. She’s great at critical thinking, very analytical, and breaks down larger concepts into parts. She also always keeping up with her reading and is an extremely talented writer,” IB English teacher and Speech and Debate advisor Eric Helle said.

By taking  both Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, M. Talamantez’s overall GPA is a 4.2. In addition to her in high leveled classes, she is widely known in Speech and Debate for her speaking skills, evidenced from her top placing speeches spoken in competitive events, such as Lincoln Douglas debates—one-on-one debates based on values and philosophy.

“She is a state qualifier in expository speaking. She is excellent at parliamentary debates and made Octa-finals at the very first tournament of the year. She’s just an outstanding speaker, it doesn’t matter what event she does. She’s really confident and skilled,” Helle said.

Talamantez was able to gain the achievement of the NSDA Academic All-American Award by pushing herself to move forward with difficult classes in addition to creating well-critiqued speeches for Speech and Debate.

“In past years, not very many students got this award because it required so much hard work. I know that last year, there were only four students that got it and since I am the first one to get it this year, it’s really exciting for me because everything that I’ve been working to has finally fallen into place,” M. Talamantez said.