The North Star Academy Speech Team cleaned up at the 45th Penn Tournament at the University of Pennsylvania over the weekend, taking home three first place trophies.
Thousands of students from 111 schools and 10 states competed in the weekend tournament, one of the nation’s largest that attracts top high school speech and debate talent.
Among the competitors were students from top public and prep schools in New Jersey, such as Delbarton, Livingston, Princeton, and Ridge along with Barringer High School and Arts High School in Newark as well as regional powerhouses, including the Bronx High School of Science.
Of the schools that competed, Uncommon Schools’ North Star Academy finished third overall and, for the first time in North Star’s history, every member of the team who competed advanced to an elimination round.
North Star Academy serves over 5,000 students in Newark in grades K-12. The mission of the school is to ensure students get to and through college. The charter school’s college graduation rate is among the highest in the country.
The team, led by Head Coach Malcolm Minor and Assistant Coaches Tierra Brown and Tasha Grant, continues a tradition of speech and debate excellence at North Star that has sent several students to the final rounds of the Super Bowl of high school policy debate competitions—the Tournament of Champions (TOC) in Kentucky each year.
“Coming into this position, I really wanted to give my students all the knowledge and skill that I had learned in my time studying theater after in college and grad school,” Minor said.
“As a former top ranked competitor, it feels amazing to win, but it feels even better to help these student-artists cultivate a voice of their own,” Brown said.
The tournament is broken into 13 categories representing different aspects of speech, ranging from dramatic and humorous interpretation to Lincoln-Douglas-style debate.
Taking first place out of 29 entries in the duo interpretation category were North Star students Precious Olajobi and Jasmine Ukegbu.
North Star student Tosin Akinsiku took first place out of 66 entries in the declamation category.
Taking first place out of 62 entries in the dramatic interpretation category was North Star student Michael Torto.
Other North Star students also took home hardware in the competition. Kwadjo Otoo took fourth-place out of 82 entries in the oral interpretation category and sixth-place in dramatic interpretation. Abigail Nicholas was a semi-finalist in the oral interpretation category and Precious Olajobi was a semi-finalist in the dramatic interpretation category.
Several competitors from Barringer and Arts also made it to the finals.
In the duo interpretation category, Arts High School students Xavior Jordan and Clarence Veillard took third place and Barringer High School students Oyinkansola Femi-Folademi and Bianca Igwilloh placed fifth.
Jordan also took third place in the humorous interpretation category while Femi-Folademi finished in fifth place in the dramatic interpretation category.
In the oral interpretation category, Arts High School student Madison McKinney took sixth place.