On March 25, a total of 43 Liberty students competed in the University Interscholastic League district meet and won a medal in each of the 22 categories. “What can I say? –says Martin Klein, teacher and UIL Academic Coordinator–, we dispatched our opponents including our nearest rival Challenge Early College High School by 241 points.” Their achievement makes them, like last year, the academic sweepstakes district 24-4A champion with a team made up by 95 percent of English Language Learners.
Priscilla Asiedu, for example, comes from Ghana. She participated in six categories within the language arts and writing disciplines and, in all, she earned a medal. “I never expected to win in the six events. I just focused and said to myself, ‘Priscilla you can do this,’ and that’s it.” As simple as it reads, Priscilla sat nearly six hours analyzing prompts, quotes and deciding how to organize an article, essay or story for six different contests and in 45 minutes each!
“This past week –Mr. Klein recalls– we had the STAAR end of course test. So I’m sitting there while Priscilla and other students are taking the test and I’m thinking to myself ‘this is gonna be a snap for this girl’… Why? Because last Saturday she had to write all day long in six different contests so a little essay for STAAR is a snap!”
Now, picture yourself giving a persuasive speech about a current event but having only 30 minutes to prepare it… well, Elvis Martínez, who came three years ago from El Salvador, stepped up for that challenge and has become one of the top debaters at Liberty High. “I joined Liberty to learn English, to succeed and now, after two years in the debate team I feel very comfortable, I’ve learned new things and have confidence in myself.” He is so confident that he competed in the National Catholic Forensic League Tournament in California and has been featured on national television for the Spanish speaking community.
Momin Panwar, who crossed the Atlantic from his native Pakistan three years ago to start a new life in Houston, discovered his great potential as a debater after joining Liberty UIL team on September 2015. “I’m a regular debater now, I participate in the Informative Extemporaneous Speaking competition in almost every tournament, so I believed that I could achieve first place once more and I’m glad I did.” In January Momin obtained 9th place in the State UIL finals and won a scholarship through a debate competition sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Mr. Klein is emphatic to say that he has “never thought of any of these students as being English Language Learners because they can indeed compete with native English speakers, do what they do and belong here just as much as they do.” And with these results, there is no doubt that they have certainly accomplished it with positive attitude, “if you don’t tell students that they can’t do it they won’t know they can’t achieve it. We do this because it is necessary not only to develop our English language skills and interpersonal skills, but also to network and to put in our scholarship application for college.”
At this pace, Elvis has clear that he will study law and follow his family footsteps because “debate is in my DNA but most importantly because I want to defend people, do justice and what’s right with those who are unfortunate and need someone to speak up for them.” Momin, in his last semester at Liberty, wants to pursue a “leadership role such as ambassador of the United Nations”. He will study international relations and has been accepted into five universities. Priscilla, on the contrary of what one would think, will study criminal justice, according to her “writing is just a hobby.”
Starting today, Friday 7, Liberty High School will be represented by Priscilla, Elvis, Momin and 20 more team members at the UIL Region 3-4A academic meet held at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. From the Multilingual Programs Department we congratulate them send the best enthusiasm so they continue to reap success!