Competing against 50 other students from across the region, members of El Campo High School’s debate team placed first, second and third on Tuesday at this year’s UIL Congress Contest, which tests students’ abilities to present mock legislation as if they were Texas lawmakers.

The highest overall region score was awarded to ECHS junior Manna Trevino. In the 4A school division, senior Jose Brito earned second and junior Austin Viktorin finished third at the Bellaire contest.

“I really did put a lot of work, and a lot of effort, a couple of sleepless nights, into writing all these speeches and getting the legislation on the docket,” Trevino said.

Before the school year began, students crafted legislation based on timely topics to submit for UIL approval to be used at the regional competition. Three of the ECHS team’s submissions were accepted, which related to issues such as the welfare state, privatizing Social Security and the Wolf Amendment, pertaining to space policy.

“When you’re looking at what types of legislation you want to submit ... you need to find something where both sides have very good arguments,” Trevino said. “You want some very good affirmatives and some very good negatives. Together that makes a very good debate.”

Three judges evaluated students based on their speaking skills, active participation in the discussion, their arguments for or against the legislation and how well they followed parliamentary procedures.

Students learn problem-solving skills and how to be informed citizens through this competition, ECHS Speech and Debate Coach Katrese Skinner said.

“The students who do this are enriched with a lot of experience in communicating and researching,” Skinner said. “That comes back to help you later on in life, regardless of how many awards you win.”

The other ECHS debate team members placed within the top 10 for 4A schools. Senior Ryan Michael Garcia placed fourth, and will serve as an alternate for the state UIL Congress competition, and senior Anastasia Hobbins ranked seventh.

Before competing at the state finals, Trevino, Brito and Viktorin must compete at the state contest, which will be held at the University of Texas in Austin in early January. The top 20 students will then compete in the state finals at the Capitol Building.

“I think it would mean a lot to them, because hard work pays off in the end,” Skinner said. “Plus it’s a really neat experience.”

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