Newark Public Schools Among Top 10 in the Nation for Speech Following Students’ Success at Prestigious Tournament of Champions

NEWARK, NJ - Newark Public Schools proudly announces the achievement of Samuel Thomas, a Central High School senior who has advanced to the semi-finals in the Dramatic Interpretation of Speech at the prestigious Tournament of Champions (TOC) in Kentucky. This success places Newark Public Schools among the top 10 in the nation for speech. This year's event is particularly significant as it marks the first in-person TOC since the pandemic.

The Tournament of Champions, held annually at the University of Kentucky, is the country's most competitive and prestigious high school speech and debate tournament of the year. It brings together the nation's greatest high school competitors, who have earned a "bid" by achieving top-tier success at designated national circuit tournaments throughout the academic year. The TOC is organized and run by former Newark Public Schools alumnus and current Associate Director of Debate at the University of Kentucky, Devane Murphy, highlighting the strong connection between the city and this esteemed event.

Central High School is also proud to announce that a sophomore, Ayomide Adekoya, qualified for the TOC. Both Samuel Thomas and Ayomide Adekoya have been expertly coached by Mr. Dennis Philbert, who has nurtured their talents and dedication to the art of speech. The New Jersey Speech and Debate League awarded Mr. Philbert the 2023 New Jersey District Coach of the Year to honor his success as a speech coach.

In addition, Barringer High School is celebrating the success of senior Mitchel Elusanmi, who qualified for the TOC under the guidance of coach Mr. Michael Sowell. All these exceptional students from Newark were competing in the speech category, showcasing their skills and earning a place among the best in the nation.

These students and their dedicated coaches have not only succeeded at the Tournament of Champions but have also qualified to compete in the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) Grand National Tournament in May and the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Championship Tournament in June, alongside other Newark Public School Speech and Debate students.

Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger Leὀn shared his thoughts on the student’s accomplishments, saying, "The hard work, determination, and passion our students have displayed in their pursuit of excellence in speech is truly inspiring. We are immensely proud of Samuel, Ayomide, and Mitchel, and their coaches, Mr. Philbert and Mr. Sowell, for representing Newark Public Schools with distinction. Their achievements are a testament to our students’ and educators' incredible talent and dedication."

Newark Public Schools, in partnership with the Newark Debate Academy, remains committed to promoting the growth of speech programs. This collaboration ensures that every student has the opportunity to develop essential skills such as critical thinking, communication, and engaged citizenship. Participation in speech events fosters empathy, cultural awareness, research skills, and self-confidence, preparing students to become effective leaders in their future academic and professional pursuits.

Stay tuned for updates on our students' progress in their upcoming tournaments, and join us in wishing them the best of luck in their continued success.

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