For the first time in more than a decade, a Bellevue West High School student was a top-14 finalist at the National Speech and Debate Association’s National Tournament.
Tamyia Bender, who will be a junior this upcoming school year at Bellevue West High School, placed 12th at the tournament on June 18.
Bender is the first Bellevue West student to advance to semifinals at the NSDA National Tournament. Her placement also guarantees her a spot at NSDA Nationals next year in Louisville, Kentucky.
Bender said her topic for her persuasive speech was on colorism in the Black community and how it affects dark skinned women in the Black community.
Colorism is prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.
“I talked about how that affects not only dark skin women in the Black community, but also in media,” Bender said.
Her speech also called for further representation of dark skinned women in the media.
Bender said the topic came about after reading several news articles with her mom.
One article that stood out to Bender was about being “an acceptable version of a Black girl in the media.”
“This is something I need to talk about, this is something that needs to be brought to attention,” Bender said.
Bender said before her research into colorism, she had not heard of the topic before.
“It’s such an uncomfortable topic and so I was like, OK, this is a topic that I need to talk about because of the uncomfortableness,” Bender said.
When the season first began, Bender said she did not know she would end up in the top 14 in the country for her persuasive speech.
“The mindset that I have when I compete, I always compete to win,” Bender said.
Bender said she wanted to make sure that her topic was top 14 material.
“Even though there were some times where I’m like, oh, whoa, this is not top 14 material, I always knew deep down that it had to be something that’s important,” Bender said.
Bellevue West forensics coach Becca Hier said she was not surprised by how well Bender did at the tournament due to work put into the speech.
“This is the tournament that is the pinnacle of our activity so when we compete here we’d love to have somebody in the top 12 or the top 14, we’d love to have somebody in the top six,” Hier said. “However, sometimes it’s very easy to be like, yeah, that’s not necessarily going to happen because it’s very difficult.”
Assistant forensics coach Dan Christie said there was a lot of excitement throughout the day, a lot of yelling and even some dancing as results came in.
“We knew that this was a topic that needed to be shared as much as possible and each time she (Bender) moved on, is another opportunity to present this really important topic to more people,” Christie said.
Bender’s top 14 finish is not the end of her story seeing as she has two seasons left of competition in high school.
Bender said she will take this year’s national experience and apply it to the two years she has left as she knows she can place higher at the national tournament.
“I’m just super excited that I have all the advice and feedback and the support that I’ve received from everybody,” Bender said.
In addition to Bender, fellow Bellevue West students Danielle Peterson and Robyn Boyland, qualified for the national tournament.
Boyland (junior) advanced to double-octafinals with her Program of Oral Interpretation entitled “A Living Legacy.” Her performance placed her in the top 102 competitors in the country.
Bellevue West has qualified students for the national tournament 15 times since 1977.