SM Northwest graduate credits high school debate, forensics classes with helping her develop skills to win national extemporaneous speaking award

Julianna Kantner won the BPA’s national extemporaneous speaking competition just two weeks ago. On Thursday, she graduated from SM Northwest.

When Julianna Kantner arrived at SM Northwest four years ago, she knew she liked to talk and hash out ideas — that’s just part of growing up in a family with six kids.

But as she started her high school career, she found her predilection for speaking propelling her into exciting opportunities. She enrolled in a debate class her freshman year, and then quickly followed it up with a class in forensics. The skills she honed in those classes gave her the confidence to put herself out in public speaking roles. She got involved in the school’s DECA program, and started participating in the Business Professionals of America’s Extemporaneous Speaking competitions.

Earlier this month, she won first place in extemporaneous speaking at the BPA’s National Leaderhip Conference in Anaheim, besting dozens of other talented high schoolers from across the country.

She credits much of her success to her teachers and peers at SM Northwest.

“Northwest has been super amazing. It’s provided me so many opportunities to get involved and grow,” she said. “Taking debate my freshman year and then forensics following that was probably the best decision I made in high school, because that skill of public speaking went to my classes and every other club I was a part of, helped me applying to colleges and I know will continue to help me in the future.”

As she prepared to receive her diploma at Thursday night’s graduation ceremony, she was mostly focused on enjoying a milestone with her friends.

But soon enough she’s going to be back putting her skills in the classroom to work. Kantner is heading to the University of Arkansas this fall, where she plans to major in international studies and minor in languages — “one or two,” she said. “Spanish for sure.” She intends to pursue a career in law.