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East High champion and coach share the impact speech and debate has had on their lives

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Earlier this year, the Cheyenne East High School Speech and Debate team won the state championship for the fourth year in a row. The team then went on to compete in the national tournament, which had more than 7,000 competitors from around the United States. One student, Jayden Roccaforte became a back to back national champion at the competition, the first for prose interpretation and now for poetry.

Roccaforte became interested in speech and debate for a variety of reasons, including watching his older brother be involved with the activity. In the last four years, he’s learned how big of an impact speech and debate can have on his life, and others.

“I was in theater and I was really interested in performing and stuff when I was younger, and I was also really shy so I kind of wanted to get out of my shell a little bit more.”

Roccaforte’s dedication has paid off as he has become nationally recognized for his works. He enjoys the recognition, especially for something he is so passionate about.

“I felt that a lot this year winning, because it was such a personal piece about who I am with my race and ethnicity, and so my family really related to it and they were all so proud of me when it happened. It has just been an amazing feeling, and knowing that people get to hear this story that I’ve been so passionate about all year is just such an amazing feeling.”

Roccaforte’s family aren’t the only ones who are proud. Marcus Viney is the Head Coach of East’s Speech and Debate team and he has watched Jayden learn and grow during his four years at East. He described how he felt when he saw Jayden become a national champion for the second time.

“Somebody like Jayden is just unstoppable, so that feeling of pure joy and sort of proof that what you’re doing is good and it does impact people.”

For Jayden and Marcus, it’s not just about competitions though, speech and debate is bigger than that.

“It really is a community where people find their place, and it really becomes a family after awhile. We all support each other, and we’re always all their for each other, and we all grow together and that’s what speech and debate is really all about,” said Roccaforte.

“You quickly realize if you spend any time with these kids that it’s not about what you do it’s about who you’re doing it with. It’s a forging of an identity of self worth and value, and so really what you’re working on is kids, and I think that’s what I’ve fallen in love with is that you can work on minds and hearts through this activity,” said Viney.

Jayden graduated East this year, and will be heading to Casper College to join its Speech and Debate team. In the future he hopes to head to further his education, then pursue something with film or acting. For Mr. Viney, he hopes to continue teaching speech and debate, for as long as he can.

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