No matter who you are, as long as you are respectful & kind, you’re welcome on our team."
– Jennie Savage, Program Director Emeritus
Making History: Ethan Boneh' 23 Wins National Championship in Big Questions
"I say this for our team, for our school, for our coaches, for my friends, for myself, for our community: WE win these."
Ethan Boneh (Palo Alto High School, ‘23) made history last week by becoming the first National Champion in Palo Alto High School Speech & Debate history. Held in Louisville, Kentucky, The National Tournament is among the most competitive in the country, including over 6,000 students representing 1,500 schools.
Representing Paly were Benjamin Grimes ‘23 and Lucas Guan ‘23 in Congressional Debate, and in Big Questions Debate, Ethan Boneh ‘23 and Mihir Menon ‘24. The students are coached by Maya Levine, Alison Cohen, Sarah Simon, and Sarah Youngquist.
In Big Questions Debate, Menon reached the Quarterfinals, finishing in the top 8 in a 100+ competitor field. This feat is even more impressive considering it was his first-ever in-person tournament after two years of only online competition.
“Debating in person was even more fun than I expected,” Menon said. “I got to meet a lot of amazing people and made friends from across the country, which was a unique opportunity. Also want to shout out Benji for being such a supportive teammate throughout!”
In Congress, Guan reached the Semifinals, a feat he also achieved last year under the coaching of Stanford students Ali Cohen & Maya Levine.
“When I went to nationals last year, it was just me alone in a room with a computer,” Lucas said. “But being able to go with an actual team this year made the experience so much more rewarding (and the giant gavel I got from semifinals made it all the more fun). It was quite difficult to adapt to in-person debate but I think all of us pulled it off quite well. I hope more of us attend together next year.”
Retiring Program Director Jennie Savage said, "we could not be prouder of our team. They've worked incredibly well together to achieve their goals this year.”
Boneh, Paly’s first National Champion, said to the team, “thank you all so much for the tremendous support and help—I'm eternally grateful. Our team has been a place for me to draw community, camaraderie, confidence, and charisma. I love you all so much.”
Kyle Hietala (the new Program Director succeeding Savage) noted that “Ethan debated his finals round in the last few hours of Jennie's 18-year tenure as official Program Director, and his victory was announced in the first few official hours of mine,” a poignant and fitting milestone to mark the transition.