Natalie Roots-Nowakowski


Sometimes I’m scared that people think speech and debate is my only personality trait. In 7th grade, my mom told me I had to choose between the three offered after-school activities at my school: Emerging Engineers, Robotics, or Speech and Debate. I thought, “well I like attention and talking,” so I went with the last option. 5 years later, I’m ranked first in the state, top 15 in the nation, and advanced to the final round of almost every national tournament I’ve attended. People reach out on social media or come up to me to share how much they learned from my speech and how my work inspires their own. I advocate for what I believe the world needs to hear. In my speeches, I’ve done ventriloquism to portray how women are always posed as hysterical in horror movies, highlighted what it’s like to identify as mixed-race during the Black Lives Matter movement, and acted like a fighting game character to show how the over-sexualization of women in video games promotes violence in real life.

No matter how many trophies are on my shelf, I do this activity because I love being able to express my passions through performance and persuasion. I’ve spent countless weekends competing and have written thousands of words. I’m proud of the messages I’ve shared and the perspectives I’ve been exposed to. But, I know this won’t last forever. Speech gives me life skills, but my dedication to it never impedes on my other loves. Those include bookbinding, video games, and lots and lots of books. I love learning about obscure historical events and discovering how religious conflicts have shaped current politics. I love analyzing the intricacies within historical documents and investigating current events through a philosphical lens. For me, success means impacting others with my stories about underrated social issues, joking around with my parents at family dinners, and going down a YouTube rabbit hole about an obscure linguistic pattern. I do speech and debate because I love it, not for external validation or building a resumè. It’s an outlet for expressing my unique interests and never-ending curiosity. Speech is not the only part of who I am, but it’s one that I know people will always listen to.