Flora Wang is the heart of the MVLA debate team


Courtesy Flora Wang

Senior Flora Wang with her debate team at the International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) tournament. Left to right: Sophia Zhang (MV ’26), Jack Pereira (MV ’23), Flora Wang (LA ’23), Calista Way (MV ’25), Kanishk Kondaka (LA ’24), Aimee Ge (LA ’25)

Your hands are trembling as you scribble down the last few words of what your opponent is saying in a round at a local division tournament.

“All right. Your two minutes of prep time starts… now.”

Your finger taps the timer, and the countdown begins.

Your brain is turning at a million miles a minute. Responses are popping up in your mind as you scramble to write them down, you’re running through clarity and articulation as you try to wrap your head around your own arguments, let alone your opponents, and your eyes frantically swipe over the paper as you catch what you missed.

Anxiously, you tense as the timer drops from twenty seconds, to ten, and then to five, four, three, two, one…

Rising from your seat, your eyes meet the faces of your judge and your opponent. Your heart pounds in your chest as you struggle to hide the quaver of hesitance in your voice:

“Is my judge ready for my speech?” A nod.

“Is my opponent ready?” Another nod.

Deep breath.

“My time starts… now.”

Speech and debate is stressful.

And it’s no secret that the competitive nature of the activity is often difficult for students to handle, especially on top of everything else high schoolers have to juggle on a day–to–day basis. With the outcome of a tournament usually emphasized over anything else, it’s easy for a highly toxic environment to form within speech and debate.

Senior Flora Wang knows this. And that’s exactly why she does everything in her power to make speech and debate genuinely enjoyable for the students there.

Even beginning in her freshman year, she was able to make a lasting impact on the head coach with the effect she had on the team. When asked about her first impression of Flora, Speech & Debate coach Julie Herman talked about Flora’s eagerness to learn.

“From the get-go, she was like, ‘Let me help you, let me do this thing that I’d never done before,’” Herman said.

Over the course of her three years working with speech and debate leadership, Flora’s leveraged team bonding activities, such as taking the team to boba after practice to make students feel more welcome and creates a team dynamic of friendship over accomplishment.

“The way that she’s different is that she’s really encouraging — her validation is really sincere, and encourages everyone to participate,” Freshman Sally Tei said.

She leads activities to create a family-like environment — to help her teammates get to know each other beyond just records and debate skills.

“I think the root cause of stress isn’t from merely competing, but rather how results are being addressed, and how we think they are going to make others perceive us and our debating abilities,” Flora said.

She hopes to bring support into the lives of many teammates who haven’t experienced a close team relationship and a warm dynamic. Organizing countless team events, such as the teamwide Spirit Days, was a large part of her intent to bring people closer together and alleviate that focus on the win/loss record.

Rather than only congratulating those who did well in tournaments, she made sure to celebrate all achievements, no matter how big or small. Something as simple as finally being able to talk through a full speech without stuttering or understanding a complicated argument is always worth mentioning and celebrating.

“You can’t have big achievements without the small ones,” Flora said.

There is a carefully fostered environmental focus of encouragement and pride, rather than competition and stress. More often than not, students often come for the craft, but stay for the warm community that, thanks to Flora, values team bonding and support over academic success.

At the end of the day, Flora had one simple answer as to why she cares about making a healthy environment: “I love the team.”