Wiley College debate team making history - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Wiley College debate team making history

2014 Wiley College debate team celebrating (KLTV staff) 2014 Wiley College debate team celebrating (KLTV staff)
Wiley College making history as the great debaters (KLTV staff) Wiley College making history as the great debaters (KLTV staff)
Debate team celebrating in parade (KLTV staff) Debate team celebrating in parade (KLTV staff)
MARSHALL, TX (KLTV) - After decades of hard work, the Wiley College debate team has won a national championship.

The award winning movie The Great Debaters was released in 2007 and partially filmed on the Wiley College campus in Marshall. It told the story of the college finally being able to succeed and be accepted as debaters from a historical black college. Today's debaters say the film's leading actor, Denzel Washington, made a monetary donation that has helped them re-establish their team and make history.

The victorious debaters are sharing their testament of hard work and dedication. They are the newest Pi Kappa Delta national comprehensive tournament champions. This year, 80 schools competed and Wiley is the first historically black college to win the award.

"To me it still hasn't 100 percent set in yet," said debate team member Cameron Smith, a freshman. "I feel like I've done this for my predecessors; I feel like I've done this for them because they've worked so hard for so many long years."

It's a first place honor from the oldest forensics national championship and it was only Wiley College's sixth appearance.

"We got to actually compete at the tournament that the school was locked out of in 1935 just because of race," said debate team captain Drake Pough.

"I think the story is not about being the first [historically black college] to win this award but about the debate team from the1930'ss that fought hard to win despite not being accepted for the color of their skin," said Wiley College vice president of student affairs Joseph Morale. "These students should feel honored for their success and the history that they are making."

After making history, the team is thanking their supporters.

"I was one of the first members of the team when they restarted the team," said debate team coach Sean Allen. "Denzel Washington donated $1 million to the program. Just to see us come all the way from 2008 until now to win this whole thing was just an amazing experience."

Sean Allen moved to Marshall from Galveston in 2008 just to join the debate team he learned about in the movie. The re-established team started off with eight debaters and now there's 23 members that he has the honor of coaching.

As they were celebrated in a parade on Thursday, they are hoping for more success.

"It's an experience that I hope more people get to have," Pough said. "It's a growing activity, so we're hoping that it can stay strong."

"I like our young people to focus on being excellent," Morale said. "If they're excellent, then it'll take care of itself."

The Melvin B. Tolson - Denzel Washington Forensics Society of Wiley College speech and debate team will be competing in yet another tournament. Next week, the team will travel to the American Forensics Association tournament in Phoenix, Arizona hoping to bring back more awards to East Texas.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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