I carefully walked up to the front of the classroom, concentrating on not tripping on my oversized suit. I took a deep breath and proceeded to deliver my speech on Pakistan and its place in the Middle East. I felt the heat from the glare overhead as I tried to recall the statistics of its military operations and not stutter. The latter was particularly difficult.
For someone who grew up in a universe where children were only to be seen and not heard, speech and debate was an alien realm for me. Ten minutes with just me and a panel of three judges. After what felt like an eternity, I left the room. It turned out that in spite of my mistakes, my stuttering, my oversized suit, I had come in third place - more than I could have imagined when I first helped start the club only a year ago.
The journey to this point was one that came unexpected. I had my hesitations about joining speech and debate with a group of kids that my friends had dubbed the "Hill" kids, the ones who never seemed to quite fit in. What I found, however, was a group of talented individuals who, like me, were there to build a team and shared a similar passion for the world beyond our high school campus.
As one of the founding members, I've watched others and myself grow as speakers. As a team we began to compete in more competitions on the regional, state, and national levels. It was heartening to see these members who only began three months ago walk off the stage with a smile, a trophy, and no regrets.
While I've always kept on top of global events and news, this was a new outlet for me - one where I could move away from only reading the news, to providing my own analysis and communicate my own viewpoints. Coming from a family that downplayed the importance of communication and politics, I found this to be particularly liberating.
I've also learned that speech and debate didn't just end with any one club - it was a lifelong learning process, and one I hope to continue at the best public education system in the world.