Helix Speech and Debate Produces “Speaker of the Year 2021”

An Interview with Owen Dahlkamp


Photo credit: Tessa Desharnais

SDIVSL Speaker of the Year 2021

Helix Speech and Debate Captain Owen Dahlkamp is “Speaker of the Year 2021” in the San Diego Imperial Valley Speech League (SDIVSL). 

The prestigious title is awarded to the competitor who has earned the highest number of points during the season. The San Diego Imperial Valley Speech League is the regional league of the California High School Speech Association (CHSSA) that serves high schools in the counties of San Diego and Imperial Valley. Dahlkamp won the title following the SDIVSL State Qualification tournament in February.

Owen Dahlkamp is a Junior at HCHS. In addition to being a Speech and Debate Captain, he serves as an Executive of ASB, and Treasurer of the Class of 2022 Student Council. Outside of Helix, Dahlkamp is on the Board of Directors of the non-profit, “Youth for Border Aid,” is a Surgical ICU Volunteer, a Research Assistant to a neurobiologist, while working part-time as a Barista at Starbucks. I was curious to find out more about his journey to be crowned “Speaker of the Year,” and I was grateful that he spared some time to answer my questions in spite of his busy schedule.


BP: In which events did you compete and in how many tournaments?

OD: In the 2020 – 2021 season, I competed in 9 tournaments in 4 different events: Dramatic Interpretation (DI), Program Oral Interpretation (POI), Original Oratory (OO), and Duo Interpretation.


BP: What is your favorite event?

OD: Dramatic Interpretation (DI) is my favorite event because I can utilize acting to my advantage while telling a vital story that has an impact on lessons we have learned as a society, at large.


BP: How has Speech and Debate adapted to Distance Learning?

OD: Speech and Debate has ceased in-person tournaments and opted for online ones. Some tournaments require you to simply submit a video and attend rounds to view that video. Others are completely synchronous while you perform your speech live. Additionally, some use a hybrid model in which preliminary rounds are asynchronous videos and elimination rounds are synchronous.


BP: Did you prepare differently for virtual tournaments than you did for “live” tournaments before the pandemic? Which do you prefer? Virtual or live (and why)?

OD: I prepared slightly differently because competing online comes with a new set of challenges from lighting to camera angles to conveying vital facial expressions. Those aspects had a substantial learning curve to the speech and debate experience. I prefer the live tournaments because there is an energy that cannot be matched over Zoom. It is difficult to describe the nerves and excitement associated with delivering a speech live when compared to delivering it over Zoom.


BP: You are busier than the average Scottie with leadership positions in school, volunteering outside of school, and holding a part-time job. How do you find the time to prepare for Speech and Debate events?

OD: It can be very difficult to balance all of my extracurriculars. However, there are two factors that assist me in my commitments: time management and limit awareness. Time management is critical when attempting to balance the various activities one may do. I keep all of my commitments in my Google Calendar. Immediately after I make a commitment, I enter it in my calendar so I will never forget what events I have and when. Additionally, and probably the most important, is knowing your limits. Each person has a different workload that they can handle. Some may be able to handle less than me and some may be able to handle more. It is critical that you know yourself as a person and how many commitments you can devote your time to.

BP: Was there anyone in particular who helped you rise as a speaker and how has being on the Speech and Debate team helped you?

OD: There are a multitude of past and current speakers that have mentored me during my time on the Speech and Debate team. My past captains were vital to my success and growth as a speaker. Lainie Alfaro (Class of 2020) was my first captain and introduced me to the world of Speech and Debate and how to deliver an interpretation speech. Ashley Simmons (Class of 2020) exposed me to the world of DI and what makes a DI successful. Eva Anderson (Class of 2020) has encouraged me to compete at high-level competitions and pushed me to become a better speaker since freshman year. Last, but certainly not least, is Gregg Osborn. He pushed me to join the team when I was a freshman, even though I was unsure if I would enjoy it. I owe any and all success to him.


BP: What would you say to an incoming freshman who is considering Speech and Debate as an elective?

OD: I would encourage them to try it! It is a fantastic activity that provides students with a platform to speak their minds and advocate for opinions they are passionate about. As teenagers, we are too often forgotten about in the conversation of justice and inequality due to our limited experience in the world. However, the Speech and Debate community cherishes our opinions and lifts them on a pedestal to sway the minds of adults and children, alike. 


It has been 2 years since Helix produced a “Speaker of the Year,” and Highlanders have waited patiently for the title to return to Helix. Dahlkamp’s victory, therefore, is something for all Scotties to bark about. As a proud novice of the Helix Speech and Debate team, this Scottie is certainly barking with pride.