Space City District Tournament
2021 — TX/US
Space City District Qualifier
for the 2021 National Tournament
2021 Space City District of the Year Awards
2021 Space City Award Winners!
Space City Student of the Year:
Ethan Jiang - Seven Lakes High School
District Coach of the Year:
Cecil Trent - Memorial High School
District Assistant Coach of the Year Award:
Clark Johnson - Langham Creak High School
District New Coach of the Year:
Alma Villarreal - Westchester High School
District Alumni Achievement Award:
Carlos Diaz - SpringWoods HS
District Communicator of the Year Award:
Sonali Hirani - Kerr High School
District Volunteer of the Year Award:
George Tennison - Olle Middle School
2021 Space City Awards - Winner Bio's / Recommendations
Space City Student of the Year: Ethan Jiang - Seven Lakes High School
Ethan walked into Seven Lakes High School four years ago, bright eyed and gung ho about high school and everything forensics. In a team filled with many successful competitors he found a way to find his voice a niche in a very robust program. As all novices in that program Ethan tried all the debate events and although finding success in public forum he really took to congressional debate and extemp. Ethan grew as a competitor and showed his commitment to speech and debate because he is also heavily involved in other organizations around campus
He was always an active member of not only his team, but of the National Honor Society (NHS), Science Olympiad, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Mu Alpha Theta. He is currently the president of speech and debate, the vice president of NHS and was previously the reporter of FBLA. As a member of the Varsity Science Olympiad team helped them to back to back state championships all while remaining an active member of his team.
Not only is he a great student academically and in his various extracurricular activities, Ethan also finds time to give back to the community. He is currently the National Vice President for Alliance of Youth Leaders in the United States where helped to run a 3-month remediation program with 170+ students to reduce summer learning loss during COVID-19. Even with all that, he still finds time to give back as an instructor to middle school students coaching them to be successful congressional debaters.
If there is one quality that Ethan Jiang exemplifies, it is his great work ethic and his willingness to help where ever he can, as the current President of his team, Ethan helped implement a team mentorship program a social justice component to combat discrimination and bias. His coach can call upon Ethan for any task and he never disappoints and always gets the job done. This pandemic season he has been a beacon of encouragement and one of the reasons behind our team success. The sky is the limit for Ethan and his nominator feels that he possesses the intelligence, charisma, and determination to be a leader for the next generation. This is why Ethan Jiang is this year’s NSDA Space City 2021 District Student of the Year.
District Coach of the Year: Cecil Trent - Memorial High School
Cecil Trent! His name speaks for himself. It speaks volumes, much louder than his own voice, which is already booming. As a alumni to this district and one of the founding coaches in Space City at its inception, Cecil has been the guiding light for more than half of the nominator’s lifetime. Of the committee members that serve our prestigious district, it was Cecil’s compassion and intellect that made him one of the best district chairperson anyone can ask for.
Cecil Trent was also inducted into the Texas Forensic Association (TFA) Hall of Fame in 2017, an honor for which inductees “shall have served the organization and his/her students in a meritorious fashion.” In the announcement letter from the chair of the TFA Hall of Fame, the renowned Kandi King stated that, “Cecil is a role model for us all as he leads, teaches and contributes to the community of forensics at Memorial High School and the entire state of Texas.”
Trent graduated from Northbrook High School in 1979, went off to UT-Austin to earn a teaching degree and started his career teaching language arts in Spring Branch ISD in 1983. He began coaching debate in 1985, and he’s still excited about what debate does for students. Cecil Trent said, “I have seen my debaters grow in confidence, learn to think critically, become experts on the issues that concern our society and go off into the world knowing they will succeed,” he said. “I am very proud that several of my former students became debate coaches themselves. “I think debate is the best game in town,” he said. “The competitiveness of debate is like no other.”
That competitiveness continues in his own fight against an aggressive, rare form of cancer (glioblastoma). His presence has been felt this year, even as he has been forced to fight his own fight, by his students and the coaches that know him. Everyone has been so lucky to have known him, mentored by him, or laughed with him. He has coached students who would one day become debate coaches, doctors, lawyers and other prestigious occupation because Cecil glows with inspiration. The know-it-all savant, is truly our 2021 District Coach of the Year, every year.
· This bio was created with a mixing of the nominator’s letter, information from his TFA Hall of Fame announcement, and from his loving wife’s online writings. This committee member wanted to make sure we try to honor this wonderful coach sincerely.
District Assistant Coach of the Year Award: Clark Johnson - Langham Creak High School
Clark Johnson has served as an assistant coach for the Langham Creek speech & debate team since 2018 and continues to this day. Clark is a very deserving candidate for the assistant coach of the year as he puts everything he has into the kids at our program. Clark lives an hour away from campus, but that doesn’t stop him from being actively involved with the team. This candidate dedicates many hours each week to intensive research, case writing, critiquing rebuttal-redos posted on flipgrid and judging. One of the many things that I value about Clark is that he has the ability to break down an argument into small manageable pieces for our novices to understand. As we all know, novice retention this year has been hard on many programs, mine included. It takes a special kind of person to make policy debate fun and endearing in normal times, but with COVID-19 wrecking any semblance of normalcy in the classroom, it is harder than ever. Langham Creek HS is blessed to have Clark on it’s coaching staff, as his collaborative work with the nominator has made a definite impact on their students.
Clark Johnson is also an alum from the Space City district, formerly competing at Bellaire HS in the early 2010’s. Clark has been an active member in the forensic community despite not being a head coach and is very deserving of recognition for all of his hard work throughout the years. His success extends beyond Langham Creek HS as he is also an assistant for the University of Houston’s policy debate team program. Juggling those responsibilities are what makes Clark so talented and uniquely positioned to win this award. He made time to travel with the team to every tournament (pre-covid) and doesn’t mind taking the time out of his day to sit and help students far beyond what he is paid to do. Clark always goes above and beyond and plans to become a full-time classroom teacher & head debate coach one day soon. It is because of these reasons that Clark Johnson is the 2021 District Assistant Coach of the Year.
District New Coach of the Year: Alma Villarreal - Westchester High School
Alma Villarreal is a native Texan who competed at one of our Space City schools, Spring Woods HS, where she competed in CX, LD, and DX. She then graduated from Smith College and Columbia University. She has 20 years of education experience, and she started the debate team at Westchester Academy for International Studies a little over 2 years ago. Originally started to give her son the chance to enjoy debate as much as she did in high school, the debate team has grown in members and accomplishments.
Since 2018, her students have focused on World Schools Debate and become CASE champions in Varsity and JV, TFA State qualifiers, HUDL City Championship qualifiers, and Bluebonnet Invitational qualifiers. In the future, she plans to expand the team’s reach to national and international tournaments. She has studied World Schools Debate with Cindi and Aaron Timmons, Team USA coaches, during their summer Global Debate Symposium and leads a World Schools Boot Camp before the start of the season. Westchester currently boasts 5 debaters on the NSDA Top 100 list of World Schools debaters.
The program has no class, so Ms. Villareal, a fifth grade math teacher, works after school with her speech kids and requires many hours of research, writing, and collaborating in order to remain competitive. With her inspiration, her students are willing to put in the work to hone their craft. Alma believes that debate can be life-changing and can be applied to any career her debaters choose. It is for those reasons that the nominator believes that she is truly our 2021 District New Coach of the Year, and one we hope to keep in our District for many years to come.
District Alumni Achievement Award: Carlos Diaz - SpringWoods HS
The nominator taught Carlos Diaz in her speech and debate program for his entire high school career. He was a dedicated member of the team who constantly mentored novices, was a debate officer for two years, was the 2016 TFA Duo champion and TOC Duo champion as well. His work ethic is just overall incredible. Upon high school graduation, Carlos attended UT-Austin and auditioned to be on the Speech team. Here Carlos bloomed and won various accolades as well. His goal was to become a speech and debate teacher/coach. He graduated from college in 2020 and is the first in his family to earn a degree.
Every summer during college, Carlos would coach for free at my school’s summer speech and debate camp. It was here that he knew being a speech and debate coach was his true calling. His love of speech and debate and his love of teaching blossomed.
After my husband Cecil Trent became ill, took a medical leave, then retired, I asked Carlos to sub for him at Memorial High School. We met constantly, so that he could learn the tricks of the trade, which as we all know are not easy tasks, especially for a 23 year old novice coach. He caught on quickly and even coached 4 students to be qualified for the Texas Forensic Association. These 4 also qualified for the national tournament of the National Speech and Debate Association.
Carlos is not only an amazing person, but his love of speech and debate grows and grows each year. It is truly encouraging to see what an impact forensics had in Carlos’ life but more encouraging to see that he plans to pay it forward. Therefore, deserves to be the Space City Chapter’s 2021 District Alumni of the Year.
District Communicator of the Year Award: Sonali Hirani - Kerr High School
Sonali Hirani, formerly Brahmbatt, was Team President for a young Kerr High School Speech Team back in 2008. That same year she won 1st place champion in the Space City District Tournament and entered the Honors Program at the University of Texas where she would graduate with a degree in Economics in 2012. After that graduation, she began her career at the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Policy Analyst working in both the Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. offices. Sonali served as a policy analyst on Student Loan Debt Collection Pilot and co-authored a policy report that was delivered to President Obama.
In 2016, she completed her Master’s in Public Administration from Johns Hopkins University. Sonali currently resides in New York City with her husband and is the Communications and Change Management Lead at the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service. Her participation in Foreign Extemp and Congressional Debate brought awareness and passion for global topics that led her to pursue a career in public service.
Sonali was not only a strong leader in the Speech & Debate program at Kerr High School, but began her long speech career at Olle Middle School. Speech and Debate instilled strong analytic, problem solving, and communication skills that she utilizes in her career daily. Sonali is frequently praised by her seniors at the Treasury for her ability to synthesize complex topics and deliver excellent presentations that are easy to follow.
Despite her personal success and duties, she has consistently given back to her Alief Speech community, nuch like her former coach, George Tennison, by helping to raise funds for competition and volunteering her time supporting and judging at both the Middle School and High School level. She is a great example of what we want to see in all our students. She is an ethical and giving leader that uses her communication skills in order to enhance the communities she is a part of at the National, City, and local areas and truly worthy to be our 2021 District Communicator of the Year.
District Volunteer of the Year Award: George Tennison - Olle MS
George Tennison has taught at Olle Middle School since 1993, and coached speech and debate since 2000. He is the department chair for electives at Olle Middle School, Alief ISD’s lead teacher for middle school speech and debate, and a member of the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Committee, as well as a member of the Texas Speech Communication Association where he has serves as Vice-Chair for the Middle School Instructional Development Interest Group. All of this additional service is just a small example of the time this man “volunteers” to service and promote excellence in the kids of his community.
Because of his students’ outstanding work, he has been named Alief ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year in 1998 and the Texas Speech Communication Association Middle School Educator of the Year in 2012, and he is also a NSDA Two-Diamond Coach.
Mr. Tennison believes that, “The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, but that freedom is useless if we are not trained and prepared to use it. In my speech classes, I help students overcome their fear of public speaking so they can fully participate in school, in their eventual careers, and in our democracy.”
His nominator wrote, “George Tennison has spent decades preparing our kids for competition and life. Like most coaches, he works hours long past dismissal, but his commitment goes beyond that of most. He rarely leaves his building before dark and when he does, he is often volunteering his time in supporting Speech & Debate in many of our Space City schools. For several years, he has volunteered his time to tabbing our School’s tournament, which serves many Space City Schools and during this time of pandemic was key in helping our UIL District's Virtual tournament be a success. I can think of no finer person to receive this honor as our 2021 District Volunteer of the Year.”
2020 District Awards: