If victory depends on the gentle art of persuasion and consensus-building, you'll want Maraigh Leitch on your side.
The senior honor student has honed her skills as a member of the Brainerd High School Speech Team, in the discussion category where "the point is to win but not dominate the competition," Leitch said in an interview this week.
Her selection as a finalist in a recent St. Cloud speech tournament has earned a nomination as Fine Arts Student of the Week.
In discussion, a group of six to eight competitors grapple with a public affairs issue -- this year's topic is juvenile justice -- in an effort to arrive at a consensus on how to deal with it.
Art focus: roundtable discussion
Art activities: Speech Team, Symphonic Band
Favorite subject: art history
Most memorable fine arts achievement: quarter-finalist in debate
Artist most admired: painter Henri Matisse
Favorite movie: "Apocalypse Now"
Favorite TV program: "That 70s Show"
Parents: Mike and Dawn Leitch of Brainerd
Each person is judged on several criteria, including speech competency, leadership skills and the quality of the participant's position, Leitch said.
A former Lincoln-Douglas debater, Leitch said she made an easy transition to discussion "where it's more like having a conversation instead of an argument."
"I felt like I knew how to do this," she said. "In debate you don't necessarily have to be polite. If you have better evidence than your opponent, that's what's important.
"But in discussion, how you act toward others is just as important as the information you can find," she said. "I don't feel very competitive about things and that helps me in discussion, because you get points taken off if you get too aggressive.
"You have to put yourself in other people's shoes and understand where they are coming from and somehow work around it," she said.
A former 4-H county ambassador, Leitch described herself as "a laid-back person who gets along with other people," a quality that comes in handy during discussion meets.
"Discussion is sort of a nice break when everything at school is so competitive," she said. "You just go out and have a good time and meet new people."
Leitch also plays French horn in the Symphonic Band and is a member of the Spanish and Drama clubs.
Leitch, who has earned a 3.60 grade-point average despite enrollment in several advanced placement courses, is planning a career as a biological anthropologist, she said.
Her career choice will help satisfy her interest in the sciences, art history, cultural evolution and archeology, she said. Leitch will attend Minnesota State University, Moorhead, next year.
Julie Sather, senior, creative writing: She has "excellent control of dialogue, vivid description and a variety of subject matter," her teacher said.
Luke Balder, senior, art: "Luke has a creative mind that is always engaged in idea generation for future projects or solving the problems of his current work," his teacher said. "He is meticulous about technique and finding the media that best conveys his expressions to the viewer."
Tiffany Stenglein, senior, Chamber Orchestra: She is a three-year member of the orchestra, including two years in the String Quartet; she also teaches viola through Community Education.
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