Dirigo High School Speech and Debate Team members, from left, Sunny Pealatere, Daisy Sweatt and Lili Salvati practice Thursday at the Dixfield school for their upcoming performances at the National Catholic Forensic League Tournament in Chicago on May 24-26. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — Members of the Dirigo High School Speech and Debate Team will compete at the National Catholic Forensic League Tournament in Chicago on May 24-26.

Junior Daisy Sweatt, senior Lili Salvati and sophomore Sunny Pealatere qualified for the tournament and will be accompanied by coach Olaf Johnson and other support staff.

Sweatt will read Shel Silverstein’s poem “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and excerpts from the book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky.

She joined the team when she was a freshman, she said, because public speaking had always interested her.

“And what kept me in was that a lot of good people that are in it, that are really fun to hang out with and to compete with,” she said.

Salvati joined the team this fall “for fun,” she said. She is in the school Drama Club and has always been a fan of public speaking and performing, so she thought it was a natural fit, she said.


Pealatere rounds out the team.

Pealatere found it to be a “a really good experience. It helps me get out there because I used to be really reserved, but since joining Speech and Debate I’m not. I’ve grown.”

The team competes in speech categories, not debate, Johnson, a math teacher, said. He succeeds Brad Conant who retired last June after 28 years of teaching and coaching. He continues to offer his help and expertise during practices and competitions.

Erin Pealatere, Sunny’s mother, is an educational technician and co-coach for the team. The students “pick whatever category they want to do, whatever piece they want to do,” she said.

The team qualified for two national tournaments this year, one in Des Moines, Iowa, and the other in Chicago. Since money is tight, they decided to forego the Iowa tournament. The group will hold bottle drives, a 50/50 raffle and a cornhole tournament to raise money for their trip.

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