Noor Khan Debater

Noor Khan, a 2019 Hallsville High School graduate, prepares to compete at the National Speech and Debate Association national tournament June 18-21 in Dallas. Khan finished in the top 150 of her event — international extemporaneous speaking.

When Noor Khan started her senior speech and debate season, she entered an event she’d never tried before — international extemporaneous speaking.

When Khan ended her senior speech and debate season, she had competed in its national tournament.

“I loved every second of it,” the recent Hallsville High School graduate said. “I was surrounded by people who were passionate about the same things I was, who were incredibly talented and spoke so well. It was so great to be surrounded by people with the same beliefs and want to use public speaking for activism.”

To compete in international extemporaneous speaking, Khan said she had to be well-versed in news of the world, cultures, languages, history and politics.

Competitors draw three topics at random and choose one on which to give a seven-minute speech, she said. The topics for her event can be any current event in any country.

Students have 30 minutes to prepare a speech that uses citations and news articles they gather before the competition. The internet is not allowed at competition.

Khan said students then give the speech from memory to judges, and competitors are ranked on performance.

To qualify for the tournament, Khan competed at the National Speech and Debate Association qualifying tournament in Mount Pleasant, she said.

“It’s not like (University Interscholastic League); it’s not split up by classification. It’s all the schools in our region, because there’s four regions in Texas,” Khan said. “I had 76 people going into my event, and only two qualify. I ended up being first after three days.”

That qualifying tournament was in February. And Khan kept going to school after her graduation to prepare for the national tournament.

She and her coach, Melissa Witt, spent months getting ready for the national tournament, which was June 18-21 in Dallas.

“That’s how Hallsville rolls; that’s one of the reasons it’s exciting to work at Hallsville,” Witt said. “The kids are motivated and excited, and they want to give extra time.”

Another graduated senior, Hanan Shehadeh, helped Khan prepare for the tournament even though she would not be competing.

Khan said Shehadeh helped her with practice speeches, research and learning about the countries about which she could be speaking.

After working for months to prepare, Khan felt ready for the tournament.

“It was very massive, intimidating and inspiring; I don’t know how else to say it,” she said. “Everyone’s guaranteed a certain amount of rounds. I made it to Round 6 before I got eliminated. There were 300 people in my event, and they cut to 60 by Day 3.”

Khan ended her senior year in the top 150 of her event.

Now, Khan is preparing to attend the University of Michigan to study international relations. She said she wants to become an international lawyer.

Considering Khan’s career ambitions, Witt said the event was a perfect match for a new graduate.

“My only regret really is she didn’t have more time with the event, because I think that would have been great prep going into college,” Witt said. “But it was exciting getting to match her up in something so closely related to what she wanted to do.”

Witt said Hallsville has not sent a competitor to the national tournament in three years. By qualifying, Witt said, Khan showed the younger students on the team the national tournament is something they can achieve.

“I’m just really proud to get to work with her and get to see her learn a new event and excel in it,” Witt said. “She walked out of Hallsville speech and debate leaving such a strong example.”