Cardinal Mooney speech team students prep for nationals

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Elise Jamison hates selfies.

“People post selfies because they want people to tell them they’re pretty,” Jamison said. “Social media has perpetuated that problem.”

In mid-June, she will have the chance to tell the country exactly how much she dislikes the social media self-portraits when she and five of her Cardinal Mooney High School classmates deliver speeches or presentations at a National Forensic League Tournament in Kansas City.

Jamison’s speech, about “affirmation addiction,” is one of five Cardinal Mooney presentations that qualified for the national tournament based on their performance at the NFL’s Northern Ohio District tournament Feb. 14. The six students are in the midst of practicing for the competition.

Juniors Jennifer Rondinelli and Johnny D’Andrea qualified in the duo interpretation category with their performance of “The Boy Who Fell Into a Book,” by Alan Ayckbourn. The pair also won the Ohio High School Speech League state championship March 1.

“It’s really kind of a blur,” D’Andrea said of the feeling while performing.

“We get an adrenaline rush,” Rondinelli added.

“The Boy Who Fell Into a Book” was suggested by their coach, Mark Warchol, but has evolved over time with the duo’s interpretation. Rondinelli and D’Andrea are considering changing their story for the national competition.

The two have been practicing, sometimes 20 hours per week, to get ready for the performance.

“After a while, you do want to go in a different direction,” D’Andrea said.

Juniors Daniel Driscoll and Michael Angiolelli qualified for the national tournament in the Lincoln-Douglas debate and student congress categories, respectively.

“Debate is the only place I can yell at people and get complimented for it,” Driscoll said.

Melissa Esperjesi, the only senior of the group, qualified in the U.S. extemporaneous category.

For her presentations, she is given a randomly-selected, politically-related question on which she has to prepare a speech. At the state-level competition, her question was whether or not a Republican-run Senate would be able to agree with the current Republican House in the U.S. Legislature.

Eperjesi said she loves speech for what she can learn from it and its rewarding nature.

“Speech is in every realm of (one’s) career,” Eperjesi said. “When I walk into my room and see all my trophies, that is pretty cool.”

While the team has several months of practice ahead, and will even have to practice at the school after the academic year ends, students say their passion has not faded.

“Speech is treated like a sport,” Warchol said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you put in the work, it’s going to pay off.”

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