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Six Peoria Public Schools students invited to California for speech tournament

Mike Rundle

Six Peoria Public Schools students are heading to the West Coast to compete in a national speech tournament.

The students—who represent Lincoln, Annie Jo Gordon, Sterling Middle, and Elise Ford Allen schools—will be participating in the tournament hosted by Advantage Communications, a California-based organization that helps bring speech programs to school districts around the country.

Executive Director of Middle Schools Dr. Jerry Bell voiced his support for the program at the Board of Education meeting Monday night, saying that student involvement has expanded rapidly.

“I’ve witnessed first-hand the tremendous work and outstanding growth in students participating in the District’s speech program,” said Bell.

Mariela Garcia-Alvarado is the District Director serving Peoria from Advantage Communications, and she emphasizes that the tournament is a chance for the students to not only show off their skills, but get a taste of Southern California as well.

“Advantage Communications is going to invite those six students to California where we will be visiting a beach…giving them some good taste of Mexican food out there, and we will also be participating in the California tournament,” said Garcia-Alvarado. “This is bigger than the national tournament that the [National Speech and Debate Association] holds.”

In terms of her confidence, Garcia-Alvarado put it simply.

“It’s going to be an incredible opportunity for us to show everybody what Peoria’s made of,” said Garcia-Alvarado. “I can guarantee you we’ll come back with some championships.”

Also at Monday night’s meeting, Board Vice President Mike Murphy expressed excitement about the arrival of ten new international teachers to the District.

After speaking with the new instructors, Murphy says that some watched past live-streams of board meetings to prepare for their new role. Kherat echoed Murphy’s enthusiasm, and says the District expects about 20 more teachers to arrive by the end of 2023.

“They’re very excited to serve our kids no matter who they are [or] where they’re coming from, and they’re highly experienced,” said Kherat. “It’s a big deal for [Peoria Public Schools], for sure.”

Kherat says that the teachers in this first group are coming from Guyana, Jamaica, and Cameroon.

Mike Rundle is a correspondent at WCBU. He joined the station in 2020.