CSCC’s Speech and Debate Team Place in State Championshi

CSCC’s Speech and Debate Team Place in State Championshi

Holly Vincent
Sunday, March 21, 2021 12:00 AM
Students, Community

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Cleveland State Community College Speech and Debate Team has a reason to celebrate! The team recently competed in the Tennessee Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) State Championship on Feb. 13 bringing home many awards. The TIFA is an organization created in 2006 by colleges and universities across the state of Tennessee who meet annually to compete, inspire, and learn from gifted and creative students.

Cleveland State had three teams compete in team parliamentary debate: Katie Rockhill (co-captain) and Caleb Spires: Brook Bargeron (co-captain) and Devin Hollingsworth; and Donnie Burnette and Burch Harbison.

Two of the teams advanced and the team of Donnie Burnette and Burch Harbison ranked fourth in the state. Katie Rockhill and Caleb Spires ranked second overall in the state and ranked as the top novice team in the state. Donnie Burnette took the Top Novice Speaker award and fifth in the state overall. Caleb Spires took the sixth place speaker award in the state overall.

“It’s a rush to compete,” stated Rockhill. “I always get a blast of excitement and nerves every time I advance. I’m excited to prove that our little community college can compete and be so successful doing what we love. Sometimes we face big four-year universities and to place beside them and even sometimes to beat them is a great feeling.”

Rockhill continued, “I am always proud of my team, my entire team not just my partner and I. Every pairing that we have are knockout debaters that have skills all their own and that compliments the team. My partner and I are both passionate debaters who can argue nearly any topic or situation with fire and heart.”

According to Rockhill, she had always wanted to join a debate team, but her high school didn’t offer one, so as soon as she enrolled at CSCC and heard about the college’s debate team, she immediately wanted to join. Since joining, debate has become one of her greatest passions.

“I am so proud of our CCSC Debate team,” stated CSCC Debate Team Advisor Laurie Rowland. “They have competed in a pandemic year virtually and learned what translates well on camera and what doesn't. All CSCC teams are considered novice teams, and they competed against teams that are in the open division (teams with more tournament experience - usually juniors and seniors from four-year colleges).”

Rowland continued, “Each one of our teams held their own and did well in this mix. The final championship round which Katie and Caleb competed in for the title was against one of these open teams, and it was a split decision on the winner of that round.”

Rockhill stated, “I absolutely love debate. I love being able to put my competitive nature to use, and I enjoy winning for my team and my school. I also have gained so many amazing communication skills that I couldn't get from anywhere else. Not to mention the family we’ve created just being a team and learning from each other. I couldn't find a better group in college to call a family. We have the best coach any team could ask for and students willing to go above and beyond for the team.”

For more information about the CSCC Debate Team, contact Rowland at For more information on Cleveland State Community College, call 423.472.7141 or visit the college at Students are currently enrolled online and on-campus through the CSCC main campus in Cleveland, Tennessee, as well as CSCC’s Athens Center in Athens, Tennessee and Monroe County Center in Vonore, Tennessee.

CSCC earned the Tennessee Board of Regent’s 2019 College of The Year. CSCC directly serves Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, and Polk Counties in Tennessee. The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving more than 140,000 students.

Photo Caption: CSCC’s Debate Team recently brought home awards from the TIFA State Championship. Pictured from left to right: Debate Team Members Donnie Burnette, Burch Harbison, Katie Rockhill, Caleb Spires and Brooke Bargeron, Coach Laurie Rowland. Not pictured: Devin Hollingsworth.



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