By Rebecca Kensil, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – The Shrewsbury High School (SHS) Speech and Debate Team hosted the second annual Evening Speech Showcase May 4 to highlight the team's talents through student performances. Awards were also presented during the event to Karyn E. Polito, a former selectman and state representative, as well as to four SHS students.
“The football team, they'se on Shrewsbury Cable. A lot of people know about what they do, but not a lot of people know what the speech and debate team does,” event co-organizer Robert Mahowald said.
He explained that the team consists of about 100 students and competes in tournaments fall through spring. The debate team has been around since the 1930s, according to speech and debate coach Marc Rischitelli, and the speech part has been in place since the 1950s.
Before the event kicked off, students explained what they like about speech and debate.
“What I really like about debate is how we get to improvise on the spot,” Richard Peng, 14, said. “In speech, we have to prepare a speech beforehand but in debate it's in the moment. You have to come up with an argument, and I really, really like that feeling when you'se like, “Everything you say is wrong and here's a million reasons why.””
Cherise Connolly, 15, explained her love for speech: “I really like the fact that we can both work as a group and as individuals and as duos. It's just so versatile in what you can do and what things you can say.”
The evening started off with a prose reading by Carolina Lima of “Goodbye Invisible Man,” a poetry reading by Sean Lambert of “Clockwork,” an original oratory by Ramya Ravindrababu of “People Inc.,” and a multiple reading of “The Wolves in the Walls,” by Jack Rischitelli, Jeremy Lambert, Cherise Connolly, Nathaniel Mahowald, Margaret Gach, and Kathy Bi.
Polito and Marc Rischitelli presented the David Berridge Memorial “Always Faithful” Award to students who exemplify community voice: senior Muneeba Syed, junior Nathan Kashdan, sophomore Nathaniel Mahowald, and freshman Kylie Donovan. The award is presented to students who exemplify the spirit of the late David Berridge, a longtime SHS coach and former Marine.
“Because [Berridge] was always faithful to the team, the award represents the kid who is most faithful to the team, as a representative of their class,” Robert Mahowald explained.
After a short intermission, AJ Harris, Ian Gansler, Brendan Hastings, and Ryan Carelli presented a public forum debate. Subsequently, Nate Hitchings and Kylie Donovan gave a duo interpretation of “Evil Dead: The Musical.” Sean Lambert then presented a dramatic performance of “Cornrockets.”
At the end of the evening, Nathaniel Mahowald presented the Community Voice Award to Polito, who has served on the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen, State Lottery Commission, and as a state representative for five terms. She is now president of Polito Development Corporation, a real estate development firm.
This award has presented over the last two years to the “the public servant who best represents the spirit of positive debate as a force for good in the community,” Robert Mahowald noted. Last year it was given to Kevin Byrne, a local attorney who served as Shrewsbury's town moderator for 35 years.
“I am very honored to be recognized by our Shrewsbury High School best and brightest speech and debate team,” Polito said before the event. “Tonight I feel a great sense of inspiration, knowing that we have this body of talented high school students who are not afraid to speak and who are ready to speak and they have something to say. So it says to me we have a team of people that are great leaders and we'se got a lot to look forward to in them.”