Meet The Hawkers

Friday Apr. 1st, 2016

Joining the Bozeman High School Speech and Debate team was a stroke of luck I stumbled upon after being cut from the school volleyball team and panicking about what my high school experience would be. For me, my biggest fear was going through the four years here at BHS and not being a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted something I could be proud of and that changed me. I wanted something more from my high school experience than four years of class, parties where no one had real connections, and material friendships that would disintegrate as soon as we all left for college, so I decided to join a team I knew wouldn’t tell me that they “appreciated but just didn’t need me at the moment.” I became a Hawker.

Walking into my first practice was hands down one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. As I sat there with all the other timid and scared looking freshman, I gazed in awe at the two teams in front of us that were debating about some foreign policy that none of us had ever even heard of. We tried to take notes and follow along but, by the end, I was just jotting down  foreign sounding words that I had never heard come out of anyone’s mouth before, much less anyone under the age of 30.

After I left practice that night, I almost didn’t come back. I thought that there was no way I could ever be able to do that, to speak like that, and contemplated not going back. My need for acceptance into something brought me back the next day though, and that’s when I found my niche.

I watched a Lincoln-Douglas debate, which revolves around values, morals and ethics, and knew that was what I wanted to do. Talking about morality was right up my alley and I knew that I could be good if I stuck with it and put in some effort.
 Fast forward three years, and I’ve just finished my third season as a Hawker. I have placed in the top eight for the last two years at the State Championship and will be traveling to Salt Lake City this June to compete in the National Speech and Debate competition, things I could’ve only imagined on my first day on the team.

I’ve improved myself drastically both academically and intellectually, and this team has given me things I can put on a college application that I am actually proud of; but for me that is the smaller part of something bigger than academic achievements on paper.

The legacy the team has left for me is one of a family. I have met amazing coaches and some of the best lads I know on this team, many of whom will have my respect for the rest of their lives. I’ve had the privilege of being in a community where the growth of one person is the result of the support and friendship of a whole group of kids and adults who want nothing more than to see that person succeed. This team has taught me that family doesn’t have to come from blood; it comes from those who unconditionally cheer for you when you succeed and cry with you when you fail.

The success of one kid is the success of the team, whether that is the two girls who got accepted into Dartmouth this year or the multiple state champions we produced, everyone feels the pride of those accomplishments. Each person on the team has so much potential to do something great, whether here in Bozeman or in bigger and better places. Watching each batch of seniors come one step closer to their dreams and their full potential is one the most fulfilling feelings in the world.

A lot of the things I have mentioned are a result of the coaching we each personally receive. In my experience playing sports and being a part of teams, I have never experienced a group of adults so fully committed to furthering the group of students they coach. The continual academic support, the hours spent brainstorming with us, and the countless late nights, early mornings, and weekends away from their families have produced people that are ambassadors and lawyers and actually changing people’s lives. There are times when it’s tough; there are times when I have cried because the pressure I felt was too much and have considered leaving for good, but the support the coaches give helps me get through and become a better student and person. It keeps me coming back every single time.

None of my friends understand why I subject myself to the long hours of work after school and the weekend meets that take up my Fridays and Saturdays for months, but no answer I give can fully explain what this team has done for me. This team has shaped who I am today and who I will be in the future. I have cried and laughed, won and lost, hated and loved on this team, but most importantly, I have found a family. I’m sure when I look back on this in a couple years I will remember competing a little, but more importantly I will remember the sleepless bus rides with my friends. The lunches and dinners at notoriously meat-driven places with a team full of vegetarians. The rap sessions between rounds with some of the people I cherish the most in this world. The people who have taught me what it means to be a genuine person and the people who deserve everything this world has to offer.

The legacy of the Hawkers on the surface may be portrayed through trophies, but it will be carried on by the extraordinary people who pass through the team and make this world a better place.

On April 22nd at 7pm you can literally Meet the Hawkers at their annual fundraising event at the Emerson Center Ballroom. Along with entertainment from the team there will be a raffle and silent auction, both to support Bozeman Speech and Debate, and to help defray costs associated with travel to SLC for the National competition. Admission to the event is free. Raffle tickets will be available at the event for $10 each or you can contact: Reni Kessinger 406-581-4981 or email her    

Emma Bowen is a junior at Bozeman High and competes in Lincoln-Douglas debate.  She is cheered on at home by her mother, father, older sister Isabel and German Shepherd puppy named Aksel.