On March 25, 43 Liberty High School students competed in the University Interscholastic League district meet and won a medal in each of the 22 categories.
“We dispatched our opponents, including our nearest rival Challenge Early College High School, by 241 points,” said Martin Klein, Liberty High School teacher and UIL academic coordinator.
The school’s achievement makes it the academic sweepstakes district 24-4A champion for two years in a row – with a team made up of 95 percent English Language Learners.
Priscilla Asiedu comes from Ghana. She participated in six categories within the Language Arts and writing disciplines.
“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.” 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.
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,” he said. “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,” he said. In January, Momin obtained ninth place in the State UIL finals and won a scholarship through a debate competition sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Klein said he never thought of any of these students as being English Language Learners because they can compete with native English speakers.
“If you don’t tell students that they can 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,” Klein said.