The Forensics and Debate team won 22 awards at the Pi Kappa Delta tournament. Team member Daniela Piazzi used the competition to talk about femicide in Latin America.
Although Webster University’s Forensics and Debate team is small, it is mighty.
The seven-person team placed sixth nationally out of the 79 schools at the Pi Kappa Delta tournament. They received 22 awards total. Senior Zoë Rollins won three different national championships – her first time achieving national awards.
“Each loss taught me that if I wanted to succeed, I was going to need to work harder and practice more,” Rollins said. “That’s what I did.”
Team coach Gina Jensen is proud of the team’s achievements, especially those of the senior members.
“We’ve had a group of seniors that have led in unprecedented ways,” Jensen said. “Just the way they supported one another … you couldn’t ask for something that great.”
Former senior Daniela Piazzi even became an All American. Jensen presented her the award during the tournament.
“I’m very, very proud. I cried my eyes out,” Piazzi said. “It was very emotional because this was my last tournament, and the Spanish interpretation [category] is the one that I really invested my time in for this competition specifically.”
According to Jensen, the All American award is very prestigious and was awarded to seven seniors in the tournament. Piazzi is the ninth Webster student in the university’s history to become an All American.
Though winning is a huge accomplishment in and of itself, multiple team members also find success in spreading awareness about important issues.
“It’s hard sometimes for people to speak up for what they believe in,” Jensen said. “Speech and debate gives them that vehicle to find their voice and learn to use it. I think it’s life changing.”
Piazzi did this through the Spanish Interpretation category.
Interpretation includes interpreting a play, monologue or story. Piazzi chose to focus on an issue that doesn’t get much coverage: femicide in Latin America.
Piazzi defines femicide, also known as feminicide, as gender-based violence ending in the homicide of a woman. She wanted to humanize the issue through her interpretation.
“I try to make people understand that these are people just like me or you,” Piazzi said. “It’s just a step away from domestic violence. If you don’t keep your eyes open, it could happen to someone close to you.”
In her interpretation, she enacted two characters affected by femicide. The first was a grieving mother who lost a daughter to femicide. The second was the daughter’s perspective as a victim of domestic abuse.
Her interpretation was based on real testimonies from family members of femicide victims.
Piazzi won second place in the category. The first-place winner also did a piece on femicide, which Piazzi felt was a good sign that the issue’s importance is being recognized.
Piazzi graduated in December, which means this tournament was her last. In addition to overcoming her fear of public speaking, Piazzi said she gained new perspectives of the world through speech and debate.
“You’re having these conversations that you may never have had before, and you’re able to see both sides of them,” Piazzi said. “Not everything is as black and white as we imagined it to be.”
It was also Rollins’s last tournament, but she said she’s hopeful for the future.
“I’m sad about leaving because this has been my home for the past four years,” Rollins said. “However, I’m just as excited for the next chapter of my life.”