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Lena DiPuccio: Speech and Debate Star

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Lena DiPuccio ‘20 is a remarkable member of Gilmour’s Speech and Debate team. I could tell from the first time I heard her speech that she would be an ambitious competitor. As a novice, she is a ‘standout’ member of the team.

When I met with Lena, she was busy preparing to compete at States. Thankfully, she was able to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Ms. Janis’ room was buzzing with activity so we went into the Student Center for a quiet place to have the interview.   

As we start the conversation, I just had to ask: “What have you won recently? Where and when did you compete?” She replied “The Gary Santo Speaker Award. I don’t remember the exact name but I know that it is for Individual Events in the Cleveland District. Those who are in charge of the district take the rankings from all of the tournaments and I’m the highest ranked competitor in the entire Cleveland District in Individual Speech Events.”

I asked Lena without hesitation, “How did you find out about your award?” She said, “I found out that I won by going to the awards ceremony for State Qualifiers and then just hearing my name announced.” Pretty neat!

Not only has Lena won the Gary Santo Award, but she has placed first at seven other tournaments throughout the season. She said “that it took a lot of hard work and practicing almost every single day to succeed.”

Lena DiPuccio (’20) stands with the Gary Santo Speaker Award.

Lena said, “We competed pretty much every Saturday from October until March at various high schools in the Cleveland area. I competed against some very tough competitors in Original Oratory.”

As a fellow member of the Speech and Debate team, I wanted to get a look into Lena’s mind while she is at a tournament. She thinks that it is like being in a “second dimension.” This means that speech is a whole different world where everyone changes.

While she shares her experience so far, I notice that Lena is modest because even though she has accomplished so much for a novice, she doesn’t act boastful or brag about her accomplishments. Continuing the interview, I asked, “What got you interested in speech? Who were your greatest supporters?”

She said, “My sister (Sophia DiPuccio ‘19), who was a junior last year and on the speech team, told me I would really like it. My sister is my greatest supporter, once again because she always lets me run my speech whenever I ask her. Ms. Lazarchik is a great supporter as well. Her notes are always really helpful.”

I then asked, “How did you choose which individual event to participate in?” Lena replied, “I’ve always liked writing books and short stories, so the event I chose to compete in, Original Oratory, was well suited for me. I like this category because you get to write your own speech, I like the concept of writing something that is my own.”

As the interview moved along, I just had to ask, “What have you learned from your experience in competitive speech, being a novice and not knowing what it was like until this year? Why join and compete in speech?”

Lena said, “I learned a lot about it last year because during Convocation, they would have other kids go up and present their speeches. I would sit there wondering how someone could memorize that much stuff without being scared. I think public speaking is a very practical skill. You can always overcome your fears of talking in front of people just by getting used to it. I just think it’s important to articulate something that you want to say.”

Lena DiPuccio (’20) stands with other winners at the Novice Tournament.

Finally, I asked a burning question: “Why does competition matter?” Lena said, “I think competition matters because you have to take your opinions and put them out there. But it also says a lot about someone’s character as well as your own because you win some and you lose some. You have to be respectful to everyone else because you except the same for you. It is just that mutual respect competitors should have for each other.”

As we say goodbye, she tells me, “The tournament that is next for me is States.” I then proceed to wish her luck at States because getting to compete there is such an accomplishment.

After speaking with Lena. I realized that she is a modest and kind yet fierce competitor of the Speech and Debate team. Everyone who participates has a reason to compete and try Speech and Debate because of the benefits it can can bring. Lena DiPuccio is going places. I hope that she continues to compete and accomplish all she can in the future.

Click here for more information about Lena and her coach, Gay Janis.