Inquire Now

Two Students Head to World Debate Tournament

Clara Swartzentruber '16

Clara Swartzentruber ’16

Claire Lane '16

Claire Lane ’16







For the first time in Stoneleigh-Burnham School’s 150-year history, two students will compete in the annual World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championship.

Claire Lane ’16 and Clara Swartzentruber ’16, both of Greenfield, Mass., and members of the SBS Debate and Public Speaking Society, have qualified for the U.S. team in the world championship and will travel to Pittsburgh for the tournament, March 31-April 4.

This is the second time Lane has qualified for the world tournament. Last year, she traveled to Hong Kong for the 2015 World Championship where she was one of 150 competitors from 19 countries, and one of 15 Americans. In Hong Kong, she placed 6th out of 150 in Interpretive Reading and 10th in After Dinner Speaking. Of the 15 American competitors at the championship, she placed 5th overall.

The 2016 world tournament will take place March 31-April 2, with finals on April 4. Debate coach and history teacher Karen Pleasant will accompany the students. Lane and Swartzentruber will compete in the following categories: After-Dinner, Parliamentary Debate (with an assigned partner), Impromptu Speaking, and Interpretive Reading.

Lane earned her spot on the 2016 U.S. team by winning as top speaker in Dramatic Interpretation at the International Independent Schools Public Speaking Competition in Toronto October 23-26, 2015. In addition to Lane’s individual win, the SBS team also placed first as a team among U.S. schools in Toronto.

Read about Lane’s experience here.

This year, Swartzentruber joins Lane on the U.S. team. She qualified by winning as top speaker at the first debate and public speaking competition of the season held here at SBS on October 4, 2015. SBS also won that tournament as a team.

Lane and Swartzentruber join an elite group of world competitors from Stoneleigh-Burnham dating back to 1988. See the list of students who have qualified for and/or competed at the world championship here.

Dr. Paul “PB” Bassett, head coach of the SBS Debate and Public Speaking Society, said both girls have worked hard to get here.

“Without exaggeration these are two of the finest independent school speakers in the country,” Dr. Bassett said. “Claire made the U.S. team last year and competed at Worlds in Hong Kong. She was the only American standing after round one. Now, she is joined by another senior, Clara, who finished first in Impromptu Speaking at the Tournament of Champions. I am so proud of their body of work.”

Lane is a six-year senior at SBS whose interest in debate was sparked when Dr. Bassett judged a classroom debate in her grade 8 Humanities class. Lane recalls that the topic was “When is violence ever justified?” pertaining to the John Brown slave rebellions.

“After the debate, PB beckoned me over and said that he wanted me to join the debate society,” Lane said. “That very next summer, I attended the SBS A Voice of her Own debate camp, and have been a member of SBS debate ever since.”

Swartzentruber has also attended SBS since seventh grade and says skills she has developed and honed in the Debate and Public Speaking Society have helped her succeed academically and feel empowered.

“In terms of my development while I’ve been at school, debate and public speaking has helped me analyze my thoughts more deeply, see others’ perspectives more clearly, and express myself with the confidence that society has taken away from too many women,” Swartzentruber said.

Lane and Swartzentruber join an elite group of world competitors from Stoneleigh-Burnham dating back to 1988.

Since 1869, Stoneleigh-Burnham School has been preparing girls grades 7-12 for college and the world. Stoneleigh-Burnham is an academic community with an international perspective that inspires girls to pursue meaningful lives based on honor, respect and intellectual curiosity. Each student is challenged to discover her best self and graduate with the confidence to think independently and act ethically, secure in the knowledge that her voice will be heard.

The next open house at Stoneleigh-Burnham will be held on Tuesday, April 26, 2016.