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Sarah Bryan: Student activity groups face funding inequities

Jul. 15, 2013 @ 12:15 AM

Some Huntington High students pull on their jerseys; others put on a suit. Some students practice their free throws; others rehearse their pieces. It turns out, all students have different interests and talents, and whatever their skills pertain to decides how they spend their time as young adults.

Some students, however, feel limited as to what they pursue because they encounter certain problems. A dilemma for many Huntington High School students is that they simply can't afford to take part in their preferred extracurricular activities.

The HHS speech and debate team, for one, is no stranger to financial problems. Compared with other areas in the school, such as athletics, speech is basically put on the back burner. For instance, when a student joins a sport, they're not typically required to pay $600 just to be a member of the team, buy a suit that can easily cost $100-$200, and pay for a hotel room each month. Aside from helping the team get out of some steep debt last year, the school has given no funds whatsoever to the team in the seven years that Helen Freeman has coached it.

They have received some outside grants over time, but with tournament fees as high as $5,000-$7,000 out of state and $1,000-$2,000 in state, that support doesn't always go far.

In fact, it's not farfetched to believe that speech could be considered an extracurricular for the rich. Although there are members of the team who don't have much money to spare, they are required to raise as much money as possible, or they often can't participate. Being a member of the HHS speech and debate team myself, I've had my fair share of stressful fundraising. I sometimes worry more about getting my finances together than my speeches and pieces. Thankfully, Freeman would consider herself a failure if she didn't lend a hand to students who cannot afford to get the money they need on their own.

So, why doesn't the team receive more financial help? It's not as if they're a burden to bear. Truth be told, the team has won second place in the state for the past seven years. It even earned third place at Laird Lewis, a national tournament in North Carolina with over 60 schools registered. Individually, there have been some rising stars. An example would be Jacob Jarvis. During his time on the team, he always placed first everywhere he competed, from Laird Lewis to Marshall University to the state tournament.

Far more importantly than the trophies they bring home, speech has taught students that they have a voice that deserves to be heard.

"Speech builds self-esteem and confidence in young people," Freeman said. "It teaches them critical thinking and problem solving skills."

Speech teaches young adults how to walk, talk, dress and act with poise and purpose.

The HHS speech and debate team additionally has had an irreversible effect on its members. Anastasia Miller is a beautiful example of how speech can change lives. Anastasia entered high school last year with a lot on her plate. Her mother was battling cancer, and Anastasia needed support, healthy distractions and a family away from home.

Not only has speech provided her with all of these, but it also has made her a successful speaker. Why should she have to worry about raising $600 on top of it all?

Throughout time, the team has received some sponsors when kids reach out to the community. "By giving to the Huntington High School speech and debate team, people would be investing in young adults who will make a difference in the future of our world," Freeman acclaims.

For additional information, contact Helen Freeman at 304-412-3393 or hhfreema@access.k12.wv.us. Donations can be made to Huntington High School, C/O Helen Freeman, 1 Highlander Way, Huntington, WV 25701.

Sarah Bryan is an incoming junior at Huntington High School.

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