Pflugerville ISD student becomes first black teen to win national debate title


DALLAS (KXAN) — Last month, Pflugerville ISD student Rene Otero became the first black student to win the National Speech & Debate Association National Tournament in Dallas.

Otero, a student at Hendrickson High School, won in the international extemporaneous speaking category, against 242 other students.

“Obviously, he’s really intelligent and he works extremely hard, but Rene makes you want to listen to him,” said HHS Speech and Debate Director Kirsten Nash. “You want him to be successful and you want to learn from him.”

Not only was Otero the first black student to win this title, he was also the first student from Pflugerville ISD to win a national title.

“For me, the best part of winning is what it means for those kids who come after me,” Otero said. “If you see someone like you, then you feel like it is possible. I never felt limited by my identity when I was on the team at HHS, and now other kids can see this achievement and know that if they don’t limit themselves, then great success can happen.” 

Along with the national title, Otero received the President’s Bowl for his overall performance at the NDSA nationals and was a finalist for the organization’s Student of the Year Award.

Extemporaneous speaking, the task Otero was given that led him to win, requires students to draw a topic and conduct 30 minutes of research and to prepare the six or seven-minute speech.

In the national round, the topics were already chosen ahead of time, to allow students enough time to prepare, should they advance through each of the rounds.

For the NSDA National finals, the speech Otero gave that led to his win was in response to the given question, “Should political leaders focus first on political empowerment or economic equality?”

This fall, Otero will be a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin and says he will be competing on the university’s speech and debate team.

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