Speech & Debate

Celebrate Arts! Upper School Musical: "The Prom" debuts Friday, March 8, 2024

Speech and Debate builds lifelong skills that students will employ during their time at Poly, in college, and later in their professional lives. Poly Speech and Debate alumni have gone onto exciting careers in law and politics, arts and entertainment, and business and economics. Communicating effectively (and without the use of technology) will serve them in so many facets of life.

  • Builds self-confidence and leadership skills, fosters team building and collaborative skills, and trains students to advocate for themselves and others
  • Hones communication skills like articulation, vocal projection, posture, and presence
  • Strengthens organizational skills like notetaking, argument construction, case building, and persuasive writing
  • Boosts critical thinking by analyzing new articles and academic research, studying prose, poetry, and public speeches, and looking at important issues from different viewpoints
Speech & Debate 2022-23
Speech & Debate Academic Component

Introductory Speech and Debate classes teach fundamentals and host in-class simulations. Advanced Speech and Debate classes, by contrast, are guided by individual student goals in their respective competition events, and provide an opportunity for varsity students to research and prepare for competition. Upper School Speech and Debate classes fulfill the arts and public speaking graduation requirement.


Students compete in multiple events in both local and national tournaments. On the local level, Poly Prep participates in Brooklyn-Queens Catholic Forensic League (BQCFL) and the New York State Forensic League (NYSFL). On the national level, Poly participates in the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) and the Tournament of Champions (TOC).

The team travels to tournaments all over the country, including Harvard, Princeton, UPenn, Emory, and Yale. Interscholastic competition provides students the opportunity to see fellow competitors’ work and receive critical feedback from judges. Students earn NSDA points at tournaments and soon become members of the NSDA Honor Society.

Speech & Debate 2023
Speech & Debate 2023
Debate Team Preparing for Competition

Students on the Poly speech team prepare 10-minute memorized speeches and performances that they perfect over the course of the competition season. Speech offers a variety of events—from persuasive speeches to dramatic performances—and gives students a platform to showcase original work and selected material in support of their message. Students hone their acting skills, building characters through vocal expression, physicality, and blocking; and develop their persuasive speaking skills through vocal inflection, tone, and movement. From humor to drama, poetry to prose, and declamation to original oratory—speech amplifies storytelling, advocacy, and dynamic performance.

Speech Events
  • Declamation: is an individual event where students perform an excerpt of a speech that has been delivered in public in an original and engaging manner. 
  • Dramatic Interpretation: is an individual event where students perform an excerpt from a play, novel, movie, or other published work with an emphasis on dramatic arc and character development. 
  • Duo Interpretation: is a partnered event where students perform an excerpt of a play, novel, movie, book or other published work with a focus on the characters’ dynamic and relationship. 
  • Original Oratory: is an individual event where students research, write, and deliver an original speech on a topic of their choosing with the goal to inform or persuade on a significant issue.
  • Program Oral Interpretation: is an individual event where students combine multiple genres of literature centered around a single theme or argument. 
  • Prose/Poetry: is an individual event where students perform a selection of poetry or prose with a focus on storytelling and narration.

Participation on the Poly debate team offers students the opportunity to hone their personal advocacy skills, challenge themselves by being introduced to new ideas and arguments, and engage with a dynamic and diverse community. Students research topics and craft arguments for participation at competitions. The main goal is for students to develop their critical-thinking skills and to become more equipped and confident in defending what they value and believe in.

Debate Events
  • Public Forum: is a partnered event where students debate 2 on 2 about existing or future public policies and their practical effects. 
  • Lincoln Douglas: is an individual event where students debate 1 on 1 about the ethics, morality, and societal effect of policies through the lens of how they affect diverse identities and perspectives.
History of Speech & Debate Success
Speech & Debate 2023
  • The Poly Prep Debate and Public Speaking Club was established in 1958. The program was reinvigorated in 2012 as Poly Prep Speech & Debate.
  • Since 2012, Poly Prep Speech & Debate has rocketed to success, earning numerous state, national, and Ivy League Championships in Original Oratory, Dramatic Interpretation, Public Forum Debate, and Congressional Debate. Over this timeframe the team has won 8 National Championships in 3 distinct debates as well as the 2023 NY State Championship in Public Forum Debate.
Meet Our Speech & Debate Faculty
Eddie Fitzgerald, Director of Forensics and Debate
Caitlin Bliss, Associate Director of Speech
Caitlin Bliss, Associate Director of Speech
Sohail Jouya
Sohail Jouya, Head Debate Coach
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What Students are Saying About Speech & Debate

“Mr. Fitzgerald worked tirelessly with me… As a result of his coaching, and the literature he exposed me to, I was able to curate cases that talked about issues that I cared about, such as anti-Blackness, the impact enslavement had on the Black community, and the obstacles Black women such as myself face in the debate space. Although this year didn’t go without its challenges, I definitely surprised myself with how far I progressed. Next year, I know that I’ll do even better.”

Rani Green ’25

“Speech has helped me grow in so many ways that my Poly experience wouldn’t be what it is without it. Cait Bliss has been a major support in all of my public speaking endeavors. She has curated intros, helped with all of my blocking, shared fun exercises for prep, and overall been a positive influence on my life… I cannot wait to continue my Public speaking studies in college and beyond. I look forward to applying all of my skills and talents from Poly to my future endeavors.”

Isabella Donovan ’24