KayLee Wright, a Coahoma High School senior, isn’t just making plans for her future, she is proactively crafting her own.
The just turned 17-year-old is heading to Austin to participate in state 3A UIL Congressional Debate contest to be held Jan 8-10 on the campus of the University of Austin. The contest is an individual competition but set in a simulated legislative body. Just like the real thing, participants draft legislation, deliver speeches, and respond to each other’s arguments.
“You go before a senate or a group of people and it will be like Congress,” Wright explained. “You are in front of a chamber of people with like 28 people. While CX (cross exam debate) is more one-on-one with an individual person.
“They judge us personally based on our one to two minute speeches and then we are questioned for another minute. They judge us on our answers and what statistics we have laid out.”
Wright returns to the Congressional Debate state tournament for a second year in a row. The experience - along with a penchant for watching criminal TV shows such as Law & Order - helped the Coahoma senior to decide to pursue a career in the law
“It was the greatest experience,” she said. “It’s what made me want to become a lawyer.”
Yet, Wright is taking her plans for the future a step further than most youths her age.
“I am learning a second language, sign language. I am learning ASL,” she said. “I want to merge those two so I can do it for students and kids who don’t really have that connection with an attorney on a communication basis. They need someone to speak for them. I want to merge that and create my own thing.”
Public speaking seems to come naturally to Wright, who has been acting since the age of 8. Her mother, Tabatha, is a teacher at Coahoma High School, who oversees the theater/arts and speech and debate programs and is also KayLee’s coach.
“KayLee has always had a passion for debate,” Tabatha Wright said. “I think that comes from being raised to always voice her opinion regardless of what her peers believed. But, you must do your research and make sure you make assertions that are true and just. She is very passionate about women's and children's rights and feels confident that she can one day be the voice for those in need of representation. Her style comes from debating on a regular basis with her friends over various issues in school, the community, or the news.”
KayLee Wright was quick to credit her success in debate to her mother’s mentorship.
“My mom has taught me to be a quick thinker, to think as soon as possible and connect statistics to make everything flow as it should,” she said.
Using her quick wit in challenging situations is just one of the aspects of Congressional Debate she enjoys.
“Whenever you are within a chamber, you can also write a bill from what other congressmen and women have stated and so that’s what I love to do is writing something on a spot,” Wright said.
Wright will participate in the preliminary congress on Jan. 9. If she qualifies for the finals, she will move on to take part in the super congress which will be held the following day on the 10 at the Texas state Capitol.