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2020 Stoa Seniors Serve
Years from now, people will ask “What did you do during the COVID crisis?” That question will be right up there with “What were you doing during 9/11?” Adam Wilkins has “kept the home fires burning.” With a baby due, Adam’s oldest sister, Monique, was actually relieved when Stoa’s 2020 tournament season came to an end. When the quarantine hit, her doctor wanted to deliver the baby early before the hospital filled up with COVID-19 patients.
Uncle Adam to the rescue! With no more tournaments on the calendar, Adam kicked into high gear as the family “manny” for his sister’s other children, James, age 6, and Thomas, age 3. Adam spent his days homeschooling James, doing science experiments, taking the boys fishing, and, in general, keeping the boys entertained—no small task when everything was closed! When Monique’s husband tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine himself from his wife and three boys, Adam continued to care for his two rambunctious nephews who wanted to wrestle all day long!
Each night after his manny shift, Adam cooked dinner for his parents who continued to work during the quarantine. You should taste his Brazilian cheese bread—a recipe he recently perfected. Many nights he also made dinner for another sister and brother-in-law who were balancing working from home with their new baby. Adam’s third sister and husband were remodeling their house—and guess who was a great sheet rocker and picker-upper of heavy things!!!? Yes, Adam, to the rescue again!
In his spare time, without tournaments to attend, Adam decided to do something he has wanted to do every spring: he hatched 10 chicks and built a chicken coop. He also had a blast competing in online tournaments after NITOC was canceled. The tournaments put a zing in his day and bang to the completion of his Stoa career!
Adam has continued to lead worship with his sisters for their church, and, as Adam is planning to attend MidAmerica Nazarene University on a football scholarship, he has had to maintain a consistent workout schedule. He has also experimented with an Instagram account to see how many followers he can get on a niche page (@fun.nydogs).
Adam’s family appreciates him immensely! It has been a precious time at home before he goes out to conquer the world.
One week before Concordia and a few weeks before shelter-in-place, Brooke was volunteering at her local AWANA club. After examining her schedule, she realized she would miss four AWANA club meetings in a row due to upcoming tournaments. Devastated after many weeks of bonding with the kids she helped lead, she told them the sad news. Everyone was disappointed but looked forward to the eventual reunion, with one of them shouting, “We promise, we won’t forget you!”
Fast forward to today. Although disappointed at having lost chances to serve, Brooke has found new, remote ways to give back to others. This summer, Brooke had the opportunity to serve in an online, after-school program teaching writing to 1st and 2nd graders. For two weeks, at a summer camp writing intensive, she taught basic writing concepts and helped students learn to write about amazing animals.
At first, the idea of online teaching seemed too chaotic and different. However, while instructing through a screen was foreign territory, the children’s genuine curiosity and fascination were no different than in person.
Even though the teaching was online, there were meaningful moments of bonding and learning. For example, all of Brooke’s students were fascinated with space. Half of the class wanted to become astronauts when they grew up! As a reward for listening in class, Brooke showed a rocket launch video from NASA. At the end of the five-minute clip, one student, with his jaw wide open, exclaimed, “That was the most amazing thing I have ever seen!” The class ended up watching the clip three more times throughout the week. From watching wild animal videos to posting charades prompts in the chat, Brooke discovered a whole new world of teaching!
Commanding a classroom requires confidence and clarity in speech, both of which Brooke fostered during her years in Stoa. Speech and debate taught her how to establish her presence and command of the room, which is necessary when leading six energetic children over a Zoom call!
Looking back, while God had closed some doors, He provided even more opportunities to serve Him and those around Brooke. Even in the chaos of the world, He is still good, His plans are good, and He uses all things for good. God can do far more than all we ask and think; He blesses us with opened doors and His faithful presence each day! Brooke will not forget this year because it will be a lifelong reminder that God’s calls to serve are not always expected, but they are worthwhile.
Nadia Hope Chera
When COVID-19 forced the cancellation of tournaments, including NITOC, it was bittersweet news to Nadia. In some ways, it fulfilled her senioritis dreams—but in other ways, it left sadness and grief. The biggest disappointment: not being able to say a final farewell to all the competitors she had developed friendships with over the years. In spite of that, she believed God was in control and had good plans for her, even if they were different from what she had hoped. So, she started praying, and God opened doors of opportunity.
For the past year, Nadia has worked with a local organization called Ceres, which provides healthy, organic meals to people in the community who have major health diagnoses but little support. Much of the food is grown in local gardens and prepared with volunteer help. With the onset of the COVID crisis, the need for these meals skyrocketed while the volunteer pool dwindled. When Ceres called off the teen volunteers, they asked Nadia to continue her work in the garden.
With a great love for the outdoors, no fear of hard work, and extra time on her hands, she has faithfully labored in the garden to grow food for the needy—even in 90+ degree weather.
Another opportunity that presented itself was the chance for Nadia to give back to the speech and debate community that raised her in Stoa. Nadia and her Team Policy Debate partner, Kayla Reiss, prepared and taught an online debate clinic for novice debaters. This month-long project was a great success! Both Nadia and Kayla encourage all up-and-coming Stoa competitors to make the most of these days—they are rooting for your success!
Ten years in Stoa (four years of watching and timing rounds followed by six years of competition) taught Nadia to pursue excellence in all things and that difficulties are opportunities in disguise. Rather than going with the “senioritis dream”, she encourages all of us to be willing to serve and remain open to the next door God might lead us through.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Neil David Mangrobang
Looking back, no one could have foreseen how Stoa’s competition season would end. Instead of greeting each other one last time in Tennessee and competing alongside close friends, everyone was greeted with the announcement that NITOC had been canceled and told to stay indoors. But as the season ended, the quiet allowed David to reflect on what it means to speak boldly and change the world for Christ. He realized that idea extends far beyond the competition room; it extends to the far reaches of the earth.
Several months ago, David embarked on a mission trip with his church to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It was there, serving people who were in need of the Hope in Christ, that Stoa’s motto became a reality to him.
Dubai is a magnificent city, but the immediate thing David noticed was that it is a gateway to many different cultures. There are people from almost every nation everywhere you go. David’s impression was that it is the people who make Dubai stand out from any other modern metropolis. Most of them are foreign workers who have left their families behind to provide for their loved ones. Although most people living in Dubai would say they love the city, they will admit they miss their homeland very much. For many, their family is what motivates them. Dubai is full of beauty, but the true gem of the city is the people within.
The primary focus of the mission trip was street ministry. Every day David and his team took to the streets in small groups and asked God to direct them to those He wanted to reach. Being the youngest, David felt he had to live up to high expectations. However, his fellow teammates encouraged him to remain in constant connection with Jesus and to permit God to use him. He then began to see God’s handiwork in distinct, powerful ways he could have never foreseen.
David’s training in Stoa allowed him to share the Gospel effectively with those around him. He encountered individuals from a host of different backgrounds, and through what he learned from speech and debate, David was able to communicate what he believed in a persuasive, winsome manner. Overall, he discovered this is where his Stoa experience matters the most: sharing a life-changing message with those who desperately need it. David knows that Stoa’s impact extends to every aspect of his life.
“Speaking boldly. Changing the world for Christ.” This means more than just winning an argument; it means speaking life and hope to those around you.
2020 Stoa Seniors Create
by Madison Tucker, Class of 2020
As NITOC was canceled, the Stoa season cut short, and graduations across the country dismissed, seniors across America were disappointed and dismayed. The Class of 2020 came into the world at one of the darkest times in our country’s history as the Twin Towers fell, and now they are leaving their childhood in a time when Americans are scared, hopeless, and broken. Throughout the nation, teens have turned to TikTok, Netflix, and memes to fill the void COVID-19 has left in their lives. But the seniors of Stoa have decided to take advantage of this unprecedented time and put into action all the skills they have spent so much time crafting during their time in Stoa.
We can be the light people need in a time when the world seems so dark. These Stoa seniors have used and continue to use the talents God has given them to be a light to those listening to what they have to say and sing.
Adrian believes in building community everywhere she goes. Those who know Adrian will tell you she is welcoming, inviting, and compassionate to every person she meets. She has used critical thinking skills, conflict resolution, and effective communication to build relationships and build up the communities around her, both in Stoa and within her school’s student government organization.
In pursuing her passion for community, Adrian has launched a blog called “Realize” that seeks to help teens and young adults realize government and political views are not just black and white, but are often actually quite gray. The goal of the blog is to “foster an unbiased, untwisted, and unfiltered look at what is happening in America.” Adrian wants a place where people can be informed with accurate information during a time when many news media outlets are twisting headlines for their own benefit. She has used this unprecedented and uncertain time to pursue her dreams and passions more than ever before with the courage that God has a plan for every step of her life.
Looking past the numerous academic benefits Stoa provides, Adrian says the most valuable benefit Stoa has provided is gaining the ability to learn how to accept failure and grow. Many people in our generation aren’t being prepared to face losses and hardships gracefully, but Stoa provides us with a God-focused, positive, and motivated community that gives us the opportunity to learn how to win and lose with grace. It is not the trophies or awards or accolades we will cherish for the rest of our lives; it is the community, relationships, and life skills.
Adrian’s Blog: Realize
Dylan is known for being friendly, engaging, and incredibly compassionate. He poured hours and hours and hours into Stoa every week and was blessed with many successes along the way. When NITOC was canceled and the season came to a halt, Dylan suddenly found himself with a lot of free time. He decided not to spend his time wallowing in what was lost, but rather, he celebrated what he still had. Dylan began putting his research and communication skills to use on a topic he was truly passionate about and started a podcast called “The Left Bench Podcast”. This sports podcast was created to provide a place for casual conversations about a wide variety of sports among a wide variety of people.
If you feel like you haven’t accomplished some of the things you wanted to accomplish while in quarantine, Dylan suggests starting with a list. Make a list of things you are passionate about, goals you want to achieve, projects you want to complete, or even just your daily tasks. This will get you moving towards accomplishing the things you want to accomplish. Many people advise you to cherish your friendships and memories and to not focus on the competition, and while those things are important, Dylan encourages anyone participating in Stoa to ask yourself… Are you in it to win trophies? Are you in it to make lifelong friends?
Or… Are you in it to glorify God?
Dylan’s Podcast: The Left Bench Podcast
As a senior who competed in Stoa for 5 years, Danielle saw her fair share of highs and lows, accomplishments and failures. Yet throughout it all, she has always kept her eyes focused on the One from whom all blessings flow. And now when the world is in one of the darkest places it’s been, Danielle is becoming a light to those around her using the skills she learned in Stoa.
When NITOC was canceled, Danielle was just as disappointed as the rest of us. But she didn’t let that disappointment hold her back. Even though her time in Stoa has come to an end, Danielle has continued debating through a program called World Schools debate that allows her to travel the world debating with friends, meeting new people, and having new experiences. Danielle says this different debate format challenges her to think deeper and analyze more than any other type of debate. She recommends World Schools debate to any high schooler who is looking to debate, travel, and make amazing friends and memories all at the same time.
Outside of speech and debate, Danielle is heavily involved in many creative arts, including photography, music, and writing. Since Danielle was little, music has always played an important role in her family. She began creating music when she was just three years old. Some of the first things Danielle wrote were music lyrics! Today, aside from competing in various debate leagues, Danielle has been actively making music with her first single “Broken Yoke” out now under the name “Danielle Iry” and an EP to come around summertime. Danielle’s EP will be called “Clouds Clear”, describing how she was inspired by the world around her, something we all experience every day.
Danielle has also taken this unique opportunity to pursue her passion for photography and filmmaking. Through the lens of her camera, Danielle captures and communicates things words cannot describe. She uses photography as a creative outlet, portraying everything from portraits of her friends and family to landscape shots and stills of concert mosh pits.
Even in the midst of NITOC being canceled, Danielle wants to encourage Stoa seniors to use the skills learned from Stoa to pursue other passions God has put inside each of us. And to all of the younger competitors who still have time left in Stoa, cherish these memories, take more pictures and videos, and don’t take the time you have left for granted!
Danielle’s Photography: @danielleleardphoto on Instagram
Danielle’s Music + More: @danielleiry on Instagram
When NITOC was canceled, Micah felt the relief of the “finally it’s over” moment. It’s no secret Micah saw huge accomplishments in the 2018–2019 season, and he was on the path to do so much more with his senior year as well. But when the season came to an end, it opened the door for him to spend more time on his other passions, such as writing and producing music.
Music has been a part of Micah’s life for as long as he can remember. Every time he heard a song on the radio, it inspired him to create songs of his own. While we have been stuck in our homes, Micah has been able to take the unique opportunity to use the skills he gained through Stoa to write, create, and produce his own music.
Micah had a lot invested in Stoa, but instead of giving up when it seemed like the most fitting time to do so, he invested his time into another God-glorifying activity. We may seem to be experiencing a frustrating and even scary time at the moment. But Micah encourages all the seniors, and anyone struggling with the cancellations happening right now, to trust that God has your story written, and He will turn all things for His glory. And for younger competitors, Micah encourages you to take this opportunity that no other Stoa competitors have had before and work! Work on speech ideas, debate research, limited prep practice, everything! Don’t waste your time watching excessive amounts of TikToks, but instead spend this time refining your skills so when the next season rolls around, you will be ready by the first tournament, not the third or fourth.
Micah’s Music: @the_official_micah_diaz on Instagram
Clara is someone who put her all into Stoa. If you ask any one of her friends, they will tell you Clara is one of the hardest working people they know. Although her time in Stoa is over, Clara has channeled all that hard work she put into speech and debate into other projects, such as poetry, short stories, a new blog, and even the start of a novel.
Clara has had a love for reading and writing ever since she was a little girl, and Stoa has helped her refine and sharpen her skills. Although saddened by the loss of NITOC and the rest of the Stoa season, Clara took this opportunity to write like she has never written before. Clara has been writing up a storm!
Clara knows the pain of losing NITOC and the rest of your senior year just as much as the rest of us, but she wants to encourage all of her fellow seniors to pray for perspective. The COVID-19 pandemic is a lot bigger than tournament cancellations and school closures. Our pain is real, but so is the pain of many others. We need to take this opportunity to show people what it is like to live life with Jesus. We are alive in Him, we are forgiven, and we are redeemed. Many people around the world right now are not living that way. They are living in fear and anxiety, but we can show them there is another way. When we choose to live a life following Christ, we leave fear, anxiety, and depression in the dust and we are able to live a life full of joy, hope, and peace through Jesus Christ.
Ballad of the Ballots
by Clara Harney
While first she read this one she nearly cried
It pushed frustration brimming over every side
She kept it anyways, a long time sore
Critiques that she could not ignore
That other one she felt an urge to frame
Such lavish compliments ascribing to her name
She thought of it at times to boost her drive
And at another peak arrive
So influential were these hasty thoughts
Both ballots different words and actions taught
But of the two, the harsher pushed her best
And challenged her to earn the rest