August 1, 2023
Palo Alto High School Speech & Debate is emerging as one of the top speech & debate programs not just in California, but nationwide. With over 125 students on our roster across 5 thriving sub-teams, we surpassed our big goal to break into the top 10 programs in the state last season, finishing at #9.
We sent a record 11 competitors representing 3 events to the Tournament of Champions, and another record-setting 8 competitors representing 4 events to the National Tournament. Our seniors broke barriers in competitive accomplishments: notably, Daniel Garepis-Holland & Yash Shetty were State Runners-Up in Public Forum Debate, and Benjamin Grimes was a National Finalist in Senate Congressional Debate.
Our 2022-2023 season wrapped up with two weeks of the Palo Alto Speech & Debate Camp (PASDC), which welcomed an eye-popping 341 campers, supported by a student-led staff of 54 volunteer counselors. Under the direction of juniors Christie Hong & Mihir Menon, PASDC shattered every record by staggering margins: from the number of registrations, to total funds raised, to service points recorded.
With strong momentum and so much to be proud of, I'm so excited to welcome you back for the 2023-2024 season. More details on logistics (e.g. practice schedules, tournament calendars, novice recruitment, etc.) will be posted soon – but for now, here are comprehensive updates about what to expect this season!
Program Leadership & Management
Kyle Hietala returns for his second year as the Program Director and Head Coach of Palo Alto High School Speech & Debate, with the continued mentorship of Jennie Savage, Program Director Emeritus. YuYu Yuan, our Platform Speech Coach, will step up to the role of Assistant Program Director this season, providing much-needed administrative and operational support as our program continues to grow. Coach YuYu has proven herself to be a caring, diligent, and responsible leader – and her enthusiasm for our culture and connection with our community made her a clear choice!
Sophia Kim ‘24 steps up as our new Student Deputy Director. Sophia’s visionary leadership, top-tier attention to detail, and superb organizational skills have already set her up to make a major impact. Her role will significantly expand in scope and responsibility this year, to include peer leadership of our elected Team Officers. Sophia will help to shift more of the operational management of the program to students.
Growth & Goals
With fantastic momentum from the 2022-2023 season, our program will progress toward earning our place in the top tier of programs nationwide. Finishing #9 in California last season, breaking our goal to finish in the top 10, we’ll strive this season to reach the top 5. This season, we’ll introduce our first set of Membership Standards, which will provide a framework for excellence in our program, and also more clearly define the expectations we hold for our students. The Membership Standards set baseline levels of participation and also provide more objective criteria for how we select students for coveted opportunities, such as attending travel tournaments or holding Team Captaincies.
Coaching & Event Offerings
We’re retaining all current teams (Congress, Extemp, LD, PF, Speech) with at least two in-person coaches per team. Hiring announcements for new coaches will be shared in mid-August. Additionally, we plan to add two new supplemental teams, Parli Debate and Impromptu Speech, to offer more opportunities for students to practice and compete.
Vision & Direction
My primary focus as Program Director will always be the growth & well-being of our students as young people. Our program has been and must remain something students are proud to be part of: a life-changing, memory-making, friendship-forming experience.
We anticipate that practices for all teams will be twice a week on weekday evenings, most likely in-person on Tuesdays from 6-8:30PM with ‘family dinner,’ and also hybrid/online on Thursdays at more flexible times. Additionally, we will continue to supplement in-person practices with more flexible, individualized practice opportunities on a team basis, enabled by our larger coaching staff, including our remote coaching support staff.