YES Programs



Finding My Voice

Bulgarian Team Posing for Picture Together

By Iva Petrova (YES 2022-2023, Bulgaria, placed by AFS in Platte City, MO)

My Speech and Debate journey started when I decided to join the team at my school in 8th grade, continued during my exchange year, and is still part of my life today. One of the reasons why I initially joined Speech and Debate was to overcome my stage fright. Another was to meet new people from around the country and make more friends. I have achieved both of these things and more throughout my journey. I found something I am passionate about. Speech and Debate is not just an extracurricular activity for me – it is a way to express myself. I have found my voice through Speech and Debate and am not afraid to use it daily.

Speech and Debate is usually referred to as arguing about a certain topic, but that is just a small part. There are many more event categories than just Debate. When I joined the team in my Bulgarian high school, I wanted to try the Prose and Poetry Interpretation events, and I have been competing in them at almost every tournament I have attended. I love doing these events because of the freedom to choose and interpret your own piece in your own way. I love reading books, which is why I have always had difficulty deciding which book I want to compete with.

Awards Won During YES Exchange Year

When I started doing Speech and Debate during my YES exchange year, my first events were reading prose and poetry because I was familiar with them. After attending several tournaments, I decided to challenge myself and leave my comfort zone by competing in the Humorous and Dramatic Interpretation events. In Prose and Poetry, you have your script in front of you; in DI and HI, it should be completely memorized. At first, I was nervous because I wasn’t used to improvising if I forgot my lines. I did not succeed in Humorous Interpretation, so I focused on Dramatic Interpretation, and it quickly became my favorite event.

My achievements in Poetry Interpretation are two 6th places in the Bulgarian Speech and Debate field, three 6th places, and 1st place in Missouri. During my exchange year, I took 5th place from Humorous Interpretation and 5th, 6th, and 3rd place All-Conference from Dramatic Interpretation home. However, I consider the Degree of Excellence from the National Forensic League in America my most significant achievement. This degree is based on the points a competitor earns throughout the season and is the third level after the Degree of Honor and the Degree of Merit.

After enjoying my experience leading teams in Speech and Debate, I applied for the City Representative position after returning home. I found my voice, built up my confidence, and found my passion through Speech and Debate. I also made many lifelong friends at home in Bulgaria and in Platte City. For me, speech and Debate is not just a club but a way of life.