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Texas Star Great Debate provides participating students a ‘beacon of light’ to grow as leaders

2024 Texas Star Great Debate students
Posted: June 28, 2024 at 10:54 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The 2024 edition of the National Hispanic Institute’s Texas Star Great Debate kicked off the summer season of six-day debate tournaments, bringing more than 100 students together from the U.S., Mexico, and Puerto Rico to Our Lady of the Lake University.

Initially designed to accommodate rural students in Texas who weren’t near one of the cities involved in the Texas Great Debate, the Texas Star Great Debate has been an alternative serving a variety of Texan students, as well as those residing outside of Texas. Eight participants, including several award winners, hail from Mexico, and a student from Puerto Rico added to the event’s geographic diversity.

The students were drafted into eight different teams at the start of the week, and those teams competed in two days of competition on Friday and Saturday after selecting a team name and preparing for competition at OLLU.

Jessica González Uhlig, Vice President of Institutional Enrollment at OLLU, said, “What OLLU loves about NHI is the organization’s focus on communication skills, community-building, service, cultural appreciation, leadership, and character development. As a parent of a former NHI student who thrived, I appreciate and believe in the mission of this organization.”

Paola Hernandez, educational director for the event, added, “The Texas Star Great Debate continues to be a beacon of light and self-inquiry for 9th-grade students. It challenges participants to consider who they are, who they want to be, and how to reimagine their futures as leaders of their respective Latinx communities. This summer, we introduced 105 high school freshmen to the people and the skills that will help them change the world.”

David Arroyo, from the South Texas ISD Science Academy in Mercedes, Texas, said, “I am a completely different person today than when I got to San Antonio. Thanks to my coaches and my new friends, I can say I am a leader now.”

Competition award winners included:

Extemporaneous Speaking

  • 1st Place: Elena Metoyer, Atascocita High School, Humble, Texas
  • 2nd Place: Ava Salgado, Dr. Abraham Cano Freshman Academy, Harlingen, Texas
  • All State: Brooklyn Kuenstler, Cotulla High School, Cotulla, Texas


  • 1st Place: Bryce Leal, Mathis High School, Mathis, Texas
  • 2nd Place: Edwin Rivas, Eastern Hills High School, Fort Worth, Texas
  • All State: Lotty Mata, Instituto Latinoamericano, Saltillo, Mexico

Cross Examination

  • 1st Place: Sadie Torres, Sharyland Pioneer High School, Mission, Texas, and Mariana Morales, Duchesne Academy, Houston, Texas
  • 2nd Place: Neva Rancon, Duchesne Academy, Houston, Texas and Tevlin Disque, McAllen Memorial High School, McAllen, Texas
  • All State Leader: Andrea Guerra, Big Spring High School, Big Spring, Texas
  • All State Member: Emelia Caldera, Mathis High School, Mathis, Texas


  • 1st Place: Katey Flores, Jubilee Lake View University Prep, San Antonio, Texas; Liam McGurk, McAllen Memorial High School, McAllen, Texas; Gabriell Medrano, Jubilee Harlingen, Harlingen, Texas; Sofia Singer, North Broward Preparatory School, Coconut Creek, Florida
  • 2nd Place: Kaylyn Rivas, Jubilee Harlingen, Harlingen, Texas; Tarrant Golding, Mathis High School, Mathis, Texas; Lolita Trujillo, International School of the Americas, San Antonio, Texas; Isla Rodriguez, Young Women’s Leadership Academy, San Antonio, Texas
  • 3rd Place: Zebony Vega, Weslaco High School, Weslaco, Texas; Jazz Castilleja, Frenship High School, Wolfforth, Texas; Zoe Garza, Jubilee San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas; Chloe Garcia, Judson Early College Academy, Live Oak, Texas

In addition, each of the eight teams had a member receive a transformation award to celebrate that team member’s personal growth throughout the tournament. Those winners included (with team name in parentheses):

  • Mercedes Cahorshak, Jubilee San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas (Fuego Lilies)
  • Anapaula De Los Santos, IDEA Riverview, Brownsville, Texas (Auratory Avengers)
  • Isabella Elizondo Luque, South Texas ISD Science Academy, Mercedes, Texas (Locked Out Droplets)
  • Cayden Gonzalez, Mathis High School, Mathis, Texas (The Debaters of Madagascar)
  • Alex Olivarez, Mathis High School, Mathis, Texas (Los Legados)
  • Loryana Salazar, Mathis High School, Mathis, Texas (La Familia Frijoles)
  • Sofia Salinas, Eagle Pass High School, Eagle Pass, Texas (81 Percent)
  • Maren Stokes, James Bowie High School, Austin, Texas (Bruno’s Rats)

NHI presented two additional awards to round out the end-of-week award ceremony:

The Hall of Fame Award, given to “an individual who embodies the spirit of the Great Debate,” went to Roberto Rodriguez of CC Winn High School in Eagle Pass, Texas.

The Estrellita Award, in memory of Esther Alfaro Nieto, mother of Ernesto Nieto, president and founder of the National Hispanic Institute, is given “to a female participant who best represents the spirit of Esther Alfaro Nieto, a young person who not only strives for personal excellence in her development but more importantly illuminates the light of hope for others to succeed.” NHI awarded the program’s Estrellita Award to Regina Delgado, Colegio Americano de Torreón, Torreón, Mexico.

The Texas Star Great Debate is made possible in part by sponsorship by State Farm.

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