Bridget Arnold, a Senior at Westfield High School, is aware of the irony of her current situation. A lifelong resident of Westfield, she describes herself as an introvert by nature and someone who does not seek out attention. Winning the Indiana High School Forensic Association (IHSFA) state championship in Informative Speaking plus qualifying for the National Competition this June in Dallas through the National Speech and Debate Association has thrust her into the limelight and made her a spokesperson for the Speech and Debate Team.
“I was in fifth grade when I joined 4-H,” Arnold says. “One of the projects offered was Public Speaking. My mom urged me to do it, saying it was a good life skill to have. I agreed to it once I realized that I had complete control over the situation. I could pick the topic, do the research and have a script to convey my ideas.”
Besides participating on the Speech and Debate Team, Arnold has contributed to Westfield High School is several other ways. She is a member of the Tennis and Soccer Teams as well as partaking in club soccer. This past February, she was a co-director of Girls Rock STEAM, an event to introduce intermediate school girls to possible careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Arnold helped facilitate the organization and management of the interactive activities the day offered. However, competing on the Speech and Debate Team has been a constant throughout her high school years.
“I joined Speech and Debate my freshman year on a whim,” she says. “Since I had some experience through 4-H, I thought it might be a cool way to get involved. I had absolutely no success that entire year until Sectionals when out of the blue I qualified for State in Poetic Interpretation.”
After her initial achievement as a freshman, Arnold continued to receive recognition. At Sectionals her sophomore year, she qualified for State and was a quarter-finalist in Poetic Interpretation. She switched to Original Oratory her junior year and again qualified for State at Sectionals. In 2017, she won the Indiana State Fair 4-H competition in speech. As a result, she earned the Achievement Trip, an all-expense paid weekend in Chicago sponsored by the Indiana State Fair Board of Directors.
Arnold’s plans for the future include completing her 10th year with 4-H this summer and attending Purdue University in West Lafayette in the fall. She’s planning on studying organizational leadership and anthropology with a minor in Spanish. She also plans to investigate joining the Purdue Speech and Debate Team.
“Knowing how to speak in public is something that will be utilized in any job anyone ever has,” Arnold says. “It really changed my life. Our school Speech and Debate team is such a supportive and diverse group. I found that, during competitions, other teams were just as welcoming. Everyone wants each other to do well and we always have a lot of fun. I want other people to know the beauty that is public speaking.”