Passion for talking, politics inspires Grand Junction teen

Tiana Menon, of Grand Junction, a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Palisade High School, has been selected to compete for the United States in the World Schools Debating Championships, which will be held in Thailand in August. Menon, whose family comes from India, said that she loves to talk and hopes to become a corporate attorney.

A love for talking is taking Palisade High School junior Tiana Menon across the globe.

The 17-year-old Denver native and Grand Junction resident since second grade has the chance to visit Slovenia, Canada, the Czech Republic and Thailand as a member of the 2014 World Schools Debate Team. The nine members of Team USA, all high school juniors or seniors, will compete against teams from dozens of other countries at English-speaking debate tournaments in all four of those countries this spring and summer.

Students on this year’s team hail from Colorado, California, Texas, New York, Louisiana and Iowa. Each student had to apply for a slot on the team last fall.

With more than 130,000 U.S. students who compete in National Forensic League speech and debate competitions eligible for the honor, Menon didn’t know what her chances were when she submitted a resume and taped speech to apply for the team in October. She was ecstatic when she received a call last month in the middle of a debate tournament in Denver informing her she was the only Coloradan selected for this year’s U.S. World Schools Debate Team.

“It was the best Christmas present I could have gotten,” she said.

Menon said a passion for talking combined with an interest in politics that peaked with the 2008 election cycle inspired her to join Palisade High’s speech and debate team in ninth grade. She competes in extemporaneous speech and international public forum categories, where she draws three topics during a competition and has to craft a monologue about one of the topics in 30 minutes.

“An environment that really challenges me is one I thrive in,” Menon said.

Menon, also an International Baccalaureate student at Palisade, said she’s excited to do what she loves on an international scale and add some stamps to her passport. She has already been to India, England, Italy and France and will get to go to at least one or two of the countries where World Schools Debate competitions are taking place.

Not all teammates go to every overseas competition due to individual scheduling conflicts. Menon won’t go to Slovenia in March, for example, because she has a debate tournament here that is mandatory in order to qualify for nationals. She said she hopes to go to the Czech Republic later in March and Thailand in August, where the World Schools Debating Championships will take place.

In preparation for competitions, team members and their coaches, from Texas, Vermont and California, will interact over online video chat programs and meet in person a couple times in Dallas. The team’s competition and travel expenses will be paid for by the National Forensic League and its sponsors.


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