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The Results of the 5th Annual Stay Woke Speech and Debate Competition

Updated: Nov 20

By Anna Galaktionov


The 5th annual Stay Woke Speech and Debate Competition was an astonishing success – boasting its first ever in-studio audience since the pandemic shutdown of 2020! It was held on November 17, 2022 in the David Brinkley Studio at Barry University and streamed live via YouTube on BTV Channel 14, a TV studio run by Barry students.

Photo Credits to Leonardo Triana.


The competition is organized by the communication department of Barry University and the official student-run newspaper The Buccaneer.


The topics that the speakers presented were inspired by and based on select articles written by the student reporters of The Buccaneer. As part of their sources, the debaters used research and quotes from those articles.


The competition began with a vibrant introduction by The Buccaneer’s faculty advisor Professor Tiffani Knowles.


Shanieya Harris, the moderator of the competition and first place winner of the 2021 Stay Woke Speech and Debate Competition, gracefully continued the event by introducing the judges, officials, and debaters.


The prestigious judges included Dr. Sean Foreman, chair of the department of history and political science, Dr. Dale Hartz, assistant professor of management in the Andreas School of Business and Public Administration, and Mr. Mateo Gomez, Barry University graduate and marketing coordinator at the division of enrollment and marketing.


The distinguished officials who asked various questions of the debaters during the Q&A portion included Dr. Mimi Capote, an international visiting professor for multiple universities in Europe and the U.S., and Barry University students from the audience.


The debaters were trained by speech coaches Dr. Priscilla Jensen, Professor Gina Margillo, Professor J. R. Steele, Professor Michael Shelfer, and Professor Tiffani Knowles and argued either for the affirmative or negative of each topic.


The first topic focused on whether non-native English speakers should take steps in reducing their native accent. Daria Didenko, a sophomore majoring in international business, argued in support of the topic by claiming that non-native English speakers should work hard to adapt to standard American English. Elizabeth Chavarria, a freshman majoring in biochemistry, argued against the topic by affirming that one’s accent is a valued asset of one’s culture of which one should not be ashamed.


The second topic debated was whether President Biden's student loan relief plan is equitable or not. Ethan Brooks, a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in math, claimed that the student loan relief plan is not equitable by insisting that it can’t effectively alleviate students’ financial burdens caused by loans. Jalaynna Sparrow, a freshman majoring in pre-nursing, argued that the student loan relief plan is equitable by professing that it assists students in fulfilling the American Dream.


The third topic debated whether the British monarchy should offer reparations for the injustices made against enslaved and colonized humans around the world. Michelle Armas, a freshman majoring in criminology, argued that the British monarchy should offer financial reparations to black bodies, meeting at least the slave purchase price of their ancestors. Jasser Ferreiro, a sophomore majoring in history and minoring in biology, claimed that the current generation should not be held responsible for the atrocities committed against black bodies by prior generations of British royalty.


The fourth topic geared toward whether the fast work pace of companies like Amazon is a threat to worker safety. Jailene Cintron, a senior majoring in biology, argued that the Amazon warehouse environment is a threat to worker safety, severely impacting the health and mental well-being of its workers. Isaiah Tuck, a sophomore majoring in television and digital media, disagreed by listing precautions workers can take and Amazon has incorporated to avoid pain and other negative effects on the body.


The last topic was a stand-alone topic arguing that a low-context communication style contributes to a more open and democratic society. Kean Huy Alado, a freshman majoring in pre-nursing, supported the topic by claiming that a low-context communication style keeps all members of a democratic society informed.


After the debates, Sainah LaFortune presented a fiery speech showcase about police brutality, and Dominique Pineda, a senior majoring in public relations and advertising, made a few lovely remarks about the communication department, as the judges deliberated and selected the winners of the competition.


Dr. Sean Foreman then announced the winners of the competition.


Firstly, each debater received a certificate of participation in the competition. Then, the winners of each debate received certificates: Elizabeth Chavarria on the topic of accents, Jalaynna Sparrow on the topic of Biden’s loan relief plan, Michelle Armas on the topic of British reparations, and Jailene Cintron on the topic of Amazon worker safety.


Finally, the overall winners of the 5th annual Stay Woke Speech and Debate Competition were Michelle Armas, coming in at 1st place, Kean Huy Alado, taking 2nd place, and Jailene Cintron, claiming 3rd place.


Overall, the competition was a lively and engaging event, filled with laughter, surprise, and even gasps! The Buccaneer congratulates the winners and all the debaters who put in much effort to present their speeches and thanks all who were involved in making this event a reality.


To watch the recording of the competition, click here. To watch the awards ceremony, click here.