Petal High School junior selected for National Speech and Debate Leadership Council

Gabby Garner was shocked to learn she was chosen as a finalist for the National Speech and Debate Association Leadership Council.
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 7:38 PM CDT
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PETAL, Miss. (WDAM) - Gabby Garner loves to share her passion for speech and debate; It’s been a part of her life since she was two months old.

However, she was shocked to learn she was chosen as a finalist for the National Speech and Debate Association Leadership council.

“I opened the email in this very room, actually, and I just lost it,” said Gabby. “I was so beyond excited, and I just felt such happiness through this. We had to make a video explaining what we wanted to do to better this council and better our organization and how we can better our community outreach.”

The art of speaking and teaching runs in the Garner family. In fact, Gabby’s mother, Kelly Garner, is also her coach.

“My immediate reaction was concern because she opened her email, and tears started just streaming down her face,” said Kelly. “I know my child really well, and I know when that happens it is just something that she is over the moon about.”

Gabby was the only student selected for the council from Mississippi. She spends hours every week, perfecting not only her craft but her teammates as well.

Gabby participates in events such as Duo Interpretation and Congressional Debate. Through these events, she is able to perform in front of judges every week the materials she has worked on all semester. She has competed in these events nationally as well.

Recently, Gabby was in the octofinals at the Harvard Speech and Debate Tournament in Boston, Mass., in two of her events and currently averages 4 awards per tournament.

By serving on this leadership council, Gabby will have the opportunity to work with others across the country to better their speech and debate experience and gain leadership experience that she can bring back home to her team.

For her mother, seeing her daughter achieve this accomplishment as both her mother and coach is a blessing. Kelly has coached speech and debate for the past 27 years.

“To find out my own child had been nominated by my colleagues, just truly blessed is the best way I can describe that,” Kelly said.

Gabby hopes her journey can inspire others to become involved in speech and debate.

“I just hope that everybody can get these communication and critical thinking and creativity skills through this program and to help better reach our communities and make this activity just better known,” Gabby said.

In this role, Gabby will be able to serve on this council with 25 other students nationwide. She will also be given the opportunity to help increase the overall diversity and equity of the national speech and debate association, focusing on creating both positive and inclusive environments in the speech world.

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