Rama Hamoudah, 17, can be extremely persuasive.

“The more times I gave the speech, the more passionate I got about it,” said the Victoria West High School senior.

Rama placed 12 out of 108 students competing in Original Oratory and Informative Speaking at the University of Texas speech and debate tournament in December. Most recently, she competed at the Dobie High School Texas Forensic Association tournament in Houston and earned top marks sending her to the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions competition in May.

“Everyone was very talented,” Rama said. “It was rough, but I had to work hard.”

She presented an original oratory, which is essentially a persuasive speech.

In that speech, she urges the audience and the judges to focus on lifting each other up in every aspect of their lives.

The competition limits speeches to under 10 minutes and Rama’s clocks in at nine and a half minutes.

Rama has participated in speech and debate competitions most of her high school career and even attended the national competition in Nebraska last year. This is a first for her to do well in the original oratory category.

“I was very shocked,” she said about her recent accomplishments. “I was just very blessed.”

Rama said she joined speech and debate to develop her public speaking abilities for her future career. She hopes one day to become a lawyer and eventually a congresswoman.

She wrote her speech at the beginning of the year, and she continues to perfect it with every read.

Every time she gives her persuasive speech, despite the results, she said she’s winning because she’s spreading her message.

Rama said she looks forward to sharing her message again at the state competition and the national competition in the coming academic semester.

She said she couldn’t have done it without the support of her parents and her speech and debate coach.

Her speech and debate coach, Jennilee Swanner from Victoria West High School, said she was not surprised Rama vied so well at her competitions.

“Rama is self-driven. She 100% puts all of her efforts into this,” Swanner said. “She’s the one that puts all the effort into it and that makes her amazing.”

Swanner said Rama wanted to do well this year and picked a topic that everyone could relate to and be heard by as many people as possible.

Speech and debate is more than competitions though, Swanner said. They both teach students how to use their voices and be confident in their abilities to speak in public. She added that it prepares students for college and well beyond that into potential work spaces.

“I hope it brings to light what speech and debate does,” she said. “I think every kid should be in speech and debate.”

Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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