Three Los Alamos High School Students Earn Academic All American Award From National Speech & Debate Association

LAHS Hilltalkers Dana Roelefs, Yunseo Kim and Olivia Koo have earned the National Speech & Debate Association’s Academic All American Award. Fewer than 1% of the more than 141,000 student members of the association earn this prestigious award. Photo Courtesy LAPS


Three members of the Los Alamos High School Speech & Debate Team have earned the National Speech & Debate Association’s Academic All American Award. Recent graduates Olivia Koo and Dana Roelefs and rising senior Yunseo Kim were selected to receive this coveted award which recognizes academic rigor, competitive speech and debate success, and personal excellence.

“From more than 141,000 student members of the National Speech & Debate Association, fewer than 1 percent of students earn the Academic All American award every year, noted Executive Director J. Scott Wunn in a letter to LAHS Principal Carter Payne announcing this year’s recipients. This tremendous accomplishment places your students among the top one-percent of all students across the country.”

“I’m so proud of Dana, Olivia and Yunseo,” Hilltalkers Coach Margo Batha said. “These three young women are strong leaders for all of our Hilltalkers and they use their speaking skills in leadership positions in their other extracurricular activities. They are an asset to Los Alamos High School.”

All three have been involved in Speech & Debate since starting high school. Kim was first introduced to the program as a seventh grader at Los Alamos Middle School.

“Speech & Debate has given me an amazing opportunity to widen my lens of how I view the world, and it has inspired me to one day become a strong advocate for voices that need to be amplified,” she said.

Roelefs, like Yunseo, was a member of Los Alamos Middle School Hawktalkers Speech and Debate team.  

“Speech & Debate was not only the core of a lot of friendships I made in high school, but it really empowered me to challenge myself past my comfort zone and use my voice,” Koo said. “I loved being able to share my message and to listen and enjoy others’ hard work through their own speeches.”

The students said that they are honored to receive this award, and grateful to Coach Batha.

“She has guided us through an incredibly challenging pandemic year, and she continues to help us all reach our goals,” Kim said.

“There’s something for everyone,” Koo said. “Whether you want to try out acting but don’t have the time for rehearsals or want to perform a different piece, to learn the inner workings of current issues and how to win arguments, or to learn how to write your own speech about something you want to talk about, Speech and Debate will give you the space to stretch and dedicate yourself, with awesome teammates who want to do the same.”

Kim added, “My advice for others considering Speech & Debate would be to not worry about what those around you are doing or saying, because everyone is different and we are all walking along different, unique, and beautiful paths. If you have something you love, and something you want to make a difference in, you will definitely have a great time in Speech & Debate.”