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Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Experience at the 2013 NCFL National Tournament in Philadelphia

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Jonathan Reese, Myself, and Jake Arden Holding Our Pocket Constitutions
This year, I had the honor of attending the National Catholic Forensics League National Tournament for the second time in student congress.  It was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the largest and most historic cities in the nation.  I had an exciting learning experience and am glad that I was able to attend.

I was a bit distressed initially by the fact that I was forced to choose between my senior trip and attending the national conference.  However, because I viewed the tournament as such a large honor and learning experience, I chose to attend it.  I am sad that as class president, I was unable to change the date, as myself and a couple others were affected by this.  I hope that everyone who attended the senior trip had a great time though.

On Thursday, I left with my honorable forensics coach, Mrs. Picklo, and Emily Barchey, a 9th grade student who has done quite impressively in student congress for her first year.  We met friends from the neighboring school of Shanksville, who we had the honor of traveling and rooming with.

A Philly Steak Pizza: Need I say more?
We arrived in Philadelphia around dinnertime.  We checked into the Sheraton, where we would stay the next few days and where the student congress preliminary rounds would be held.  We then made our way to Rex's, an excellent little restaurant with great pizza and various other items.  I chose to order a Philly steak pizza, which turned out to be a delicious and interesting dish.  We then made our way to the Sheraton’s pool but were saddened by its small size.

Just a small part of the massive Terminal Market.
We spent the next day sightseeing and visiting all of the greatest sites of Philadelphia.  Our first stop was the Terminal Market.  The Terminal Market was one of the most exciting places that I have ever visited.  It was a GIGANTIC market, including dozens of endless stands with everything from bakeries to coffee shops to seafood to Chinese.  For breakfast, I ordered creamed beef over potatoes from a Dutch stand.  To accompany it, I visited Old City Coffee and got their daily special of Ugandan coffee, which turned out to be great.

Inside Independence Hall
Next, we made our way to Independence Hall, one of the greatest sites in American history.  Here, both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed into order.  It was the place where our founding fathers conducted business and ran our newborn nation.  We took an interesting tour through here, where we were given the opportunity to stand in the same building that our nation was created.  For anyone visiting Philadelphia, this is the must see site, but be sure to get tickets prior to going.

The Bell of Liberty
Next, we made our way to the Liberty Bell.  We had to wait quite a while to see it, but the long wait was well worth it.  The Liberty Bell is housed in a nice museum beside the greens, with much historical insight and many artifacts portraying its history.  The Liberty Bell was very exciting to see and get a picture with, though I always pictured it on an elevated area.

Betsy Ross’s House
We then made our way to Betsy Ross's house.  Supposedly haunted, this is the place where Betsy Ross created the flag that would represent our great nation.  It was very interesting to walk through, with many artifacts from the 1800s and several documents signed by Betsy Ross.

Authentic Philly Cheese Steak
For dinner, we made our way to Jim's Steaks, a legendary place to pick up an authentic Philly cheese steak where many famous people, such as Mr. T, got their taste of Philadelphia.  They had extremely tasty steaks, but I must warn everyone to get a sense for Philadelphia dialect before ordering.  First, be sure to order "whiz" cheese.  I made the mistake of saying "provolone and whiz" (he must not have heard the "whiz") and did not get the full cheese steak experience with "whiz".  Next, say "wit" if you wish to have peppers and onions on your steak.  Ordering can be quite stressful, as they expect you to know what you want immediately.

On Saturday, we woke up for the big day: competitions.  That day, we had three three-hour rounds for a total of nine hours of student congress.  It was quite an experience, giving a feeling of the way of life for students throughout the United States.  I met people from everywhere from Mississippi to Detroit to Boston.  It was exciting to see this great variety of people.  I was able to give five or six speeches throughout the day and believe that this helped me greatly with public speaking.  Student congress has turned me into a great public speaker, and I am grateful that I have done it over the years.

After the first round, we once again made our way to Rex's.  I ordered yet another Philly cheese steak.  This time, I did not make the mistake of having my sandwich void of "whiz."  The second round then took place throughout the afternoon, and the third round finished around eight o'clock. 

Throughout the rounds, we discussed everything from Syria to a federal gas tax increase to gun control.  It was quite interesting to see the varying opinions of students throughout the nation.  While it was long, I greatly enjoyed learning more about each topic and giving my own input.

Following the nine hours of congress, we ordered and enjoyed some great Chinese food.  We then went to the postings party, a crazy festivity with thousands of forensics members.  During it, I took part in the excitement of crowd surfing.  Check out the video below to see it!

Unfortunately, I did not make it on.  I had been in a room with over twenty students, all of which were great speakers.  I felt that I and everyone in the room had competed well, and it was a close event.

Sunday morning, we woke up and once again made our way to the Terminal Market.  This time, we picked up a delicious cheese cake and a fresh made smoothie.  Once again, I was shocked by the greatness of this marketplace.  Below is a Vine I created, featuring some of the many stands there.

Around lunchtime, we departed back to Western PA.  I had an amazing time and will greatly miss the urban setting that I have learned to love.

My Amazing Forensics Coach - via Rebecca Sheriff
This event concludes a great run in forensics.  It was the last ever that I will compete in, and I will greatly miss the events and the friends that I have made through them.  In addition, I will greatly miss my forensics coach, Mrs. Picklo.  She has been a great coach and friend over the years, and none of my success in forensics would have been possible without her.  Unfortunately, due to health issues, she will not be coaching next year.  However, I hope that another leaders steps up to the plate, so a program that has turned into something great continues to thrive in the school of Rockwood.  I thank her greatly for all that she has done and will not forget this experience!

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