Klein High Speech and Debate Team Places in Top 16


Four students from Klein High’s Speech and Debate team battled it out with teams from around the globe for five months for a shot at the International Public Policy Forum championship.

The team consists of Hanaa Irfan, Fatima Raja, Brandon Wu and Andy Zhou, learners with an acute “we not me” attitude who quickly identified each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to celebrate their diverse skills and collaborate to achieve their shared goal.

Here’s How it Works

Every year, the Brewer Foundation and New York University release a debate topic concerning public policy. All public and private high schools in the world are invited to submit a qualifying round essay, affirmative or negative. The competition is narrowed down one round at a time, one rebuttal at a time, one essay at a time. Out of the 200 teams that submitted a qualifying round essay, Klein High made it to the “Sweet 16” teams in the world.

“Andy is the researcher, Brandon is the brainstormer, and Fatima and myself handle most of the writing,” Irfan said. “More importantly than anything else though, the four of us value working collaboratively to ensure that our arguments are as flawless as they can be. We have four very different minds but when they come together, it works so well.”

Speech and Debate Director Ryan Hennessey believes that this experience empowered the students to enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving skills beyond the classroom.

“They’ve devoted many sleepless nights to this,” he said. “The four of them debate all the time, but this is a much more academically-focused sort of debate and giving them the opportunity to engage in something like this, outside of these walls, is what it’s all about.”

All four students are grateful for the opportunity to develop into interconnected global citizens and are proud to make a name for Klein ISD in the district’s first brush with the competition.

“Our guiding documents talk about how we should have access to different pathways in order to find our purpose and although we don’t have an international relations teacher here teaching us global politics, we still have the ability to explore that subject and I think that that’s the point, it’s given us access to our purpose,” Wu said.

The team hopes that future generations of Klein ISD debaters will be inspired to follow in their footsteps and embrace this unique challenge!