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Poly Scholar Wins State Debate Contest

Harvard-bound Polytechnic High School PACE senior Siodhbhra Parkin won first place recently at the statewide California High School Speech Association Student Congress Competition.

The tournament was held in Rocklin, CA at Sierra College, near Sacramento. The final round of Student Congress was held in the Senate Rotunda at the State Capitol, where Parkin debated the hot topic of immigration issues related to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Parkin, editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, was first out of 90 competitors at the debate tournament, and best among 629 in the state in qualifying tournaments. The award comes with a $250 scholarship.

"It was just amazing," Parkin said. "Last year I earned second place, so I returned this year with renewed vigor."

The busy senior will now go to Washington, D.C. to meet with U.S. Supreme Court justices May 15-17 as part of a Mock Trial trip sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Parkin has earned a $31,000-per-year scholarship to Harvard for four years. She also has completed more than a year of college credit by taking Advanced Placement courses and exams, and by enrolling in classes at Long Beach City College. The college offers the courses in a cooperative venture with the Long Beach Unified School District.

"The entire public school system has worked wonders for me," said Parkin, who attended private school at the elementary level before enrolling in the Long Beach Unified School District’s Stanford Middle School and then Poly. PACE is the Program of Additional Curricular Experiences, Poly’s rigorous and nationally recognized magnet program.

"Just the opportunities that have been presented to me – Mock Trial, the debate team, the student newspaper – it’s all been made available to me at Poly. I would not have had the same opportunities at a private school. The teachers and everyone at Poly have been incredible. I just can’t say enough good things about Poly High. Go, Jackrabbits!"

Parkin has won several other speech contests this year, including two levels of the Lions Club's Speakers Contest, and she was the overall winner at the recent Port of Long Beach Speech Contest. At the Port, she captured the top prize in the high school division and defeated all entrants from Long Beach City College and California State University Long Beach.

At Harvard, Parkin plans to major in chemistry and English literature. The debate champ was coached by teacher Brett Alexander. This was Alexander’s first state champion in his 13-year coaching career.