(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)— Lafayette senior Aleigha Hammet heads to the National Speech and Debate tournament in June.
"In the history of Lafayette, no one has ever went to Nationals," Speech and Debate coach Dr. M. Shane Beard said.
More than 4,500 students from across the country will compete in the national tournament and Hammet will go up against 250 individuals in her respective category.
"More so, more than anything, I couldn't believe it," Hammet said.
Hammet spent months preparing her piece for the national qualifier. She competed against 46 other students and finished in the top three to advance to Nationals.
"This is the culmination of hours, hours and hours worth of work," Beard said.
Hammet competes in Program Oral Interpretation (POI)—an interpretative event.
"I act out of a little black book and I have three various sources of media or more in my event," Hammet said.
Hammet's piece pertains to the deadly 1999 Columbine High School shooting.
"It's just something that we shouldn't ignore," Hammet said. "I think it's something that we should focus on and despite what we believe, we should agree that kids, teachers shouldn't be dying in school shootings. Something needs to be done-you can argue what that is."
Hammet uses poetry and transcripts from the 911 calls to put together a 10-minute piece—in which she alternates between characters during the presentation.
"It's super important to get it right and represent the people and get the message across that you want to get," Beard said.
Hammet competed seven times the night of the national qualifier—performing the full 10-minute each time.
"I just go up there and do what I've been taught to do, what I've been practicing to do," Hammet said.
When she heads to the national competition, Hammet will represent herself and the team—knowing all the hours her team put in with her will be front and center.
"It's the best of the best all across the nation and it's even an honor just to go," Hammet said.
The National Speech and Debate Tournament takes place June 16-21st in Dallas, Tex.