Asha Anthony may not be ready to realize her goal of running for public office, but she demonstrated recently that she has the oratorical chops to sway voters.
The Gilbert teen, a senior at Desert Ridge High School, recently was crowned state champ in her division for original oratory in the state speech and debate championship tournament.
That made Asha Desert Ridge High’s first state champion in speech and debate, according to Marco A. Domínguez, the school’s speech and debate coach.
“Asha made it ranked first out of the three preliminary rounds, which guaranteed she broke into semifinals,” he said. “Then a good performance got her a spot into finals with competitors that have won at various tournaments this season. She left with the top score in the final round and secured the win.”
Though only a member of Desert Ridge’s Forensics: Speech and Debate Team since her junior year, Asha said she’s loved Congressional Debate in her classes, so she was a contestant in the state tourney for that and oratory.
“I definitely enjoy it, but I didn’t think I’d be all that good in oratory,” she said.
Asha and her twin sister Alie are both on the team. Alie competed in the state finals in Dramatic Interpretation.
In the oratory competition, Asha – who topped 48 competitors – had 10 minutes to give a speech that she had researched, written, memorized and practiced for weeks.
She opted to speak on how society ignored the high homicide and incarceration rates among people of color in the LGBT community.
Speech and Debate holds 16 different events at the state tournament that each produce a state champion along with team awards.
Now, Asha is preparing for the national qualifier tournament on March 19-21. Winners get invited to the 2020 National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this summer.
“It is my third year coaching and we’re hoping that this win pushes us into having our third consecutive year going to nationals,” Dominguez said.
With a 3.4 cumulative grade point average, Asha plans to attend Howard University, which already has given her two scholarships that cover her tuition, room and board and most other expenses.
She plans to get her degree in Strategic, Legal and Management Communication, a sophisticated undergrad program that the Washington, D.C. university describes as a program to “promote the study and practice of communicating effectively within institutional, corporate, organizational, legal, social, intercultural and interpersonal contexts.”
That way, she hopes, it will enable her to achieve her real dream – running for public office.
While she initially had thought of getting a law degree, she said the last two years changed her mind.
“There’s so much division in the country now, and I want to help change that,” Asha said.