Straight talking key to debate success |

Straight talking key to debate success

by Sharlene Irete

It’s easy to stand out when you’re 6 foot 6 inches tall, but Max Helling also stands out for being a 17-year-old who actually looks at people when he’s talking to them.

Max said his communication skills could help him in the future.

“I really want to help people and it’s important to be able to communicate,” he said. “I’m going to Gonzaga University, majoring in a pre-med field. Communication is what doctors need.”

The Douglas High School senior will compete in national speech and debate events for the Carson Valley Chapter of FFA in Indianapolis, Ind., in October and the National Forensics League Tournament in Wichita, Kan., in June.

Participation in speech and debate turned out to be a natural progression after taking speech therapy classes until he was in eighth grade.

“I couldn’t say R’s or L’s,” he said, without a hint of impediment.

“My coaches have been a huge influence. I met Marty Cronin when I was in ninth grade when I came to DHS to work with the senior debaters. One time we missed the bus (at a speech event) and that’s when I really got to know him.”

Max credits Paul Mileo and Brian McNulty with keeping the speech and debate team going at Douglas. Mileo and McNulty are Douglas graduates and University of Nevada, Reno, students who volunteered to coach the team this year when it was found there was no regular teacher.

“Paul and Brian drive from Reno twice a week,” he said. “They’re really knowledgeable and great debaters. It’s awesome for them to step up and help us. They really give us some structure.”

This year Max earned an award of outstanding distinction within the National Forensics League.

“The Quad Ruby is when you get 1,000 speaking and debate points over your career,” said Max. “Each first-place speech gets six points – over four years, that’s a lot of speeches. The Quad Ruby took some dedication.”

A slam-dunk topic for Max would be on range management but his topic for the National Forensics League competition is “Resolved: On balance, violent revolution is a just response to political oppression.”

Just because he was interested, Max took a class in American Sign Language at Western Nevada Community College and used what he learned for a speech topic on Grace’s Law, New Jersey legislation requiring insurance coverage for children who need hearing aids.

Max has an interest in animals and agriculture because of his involvement with the Carson Valley FFA and is also interested in environmental law.

He doesn’t know where his interests will lead him on a career path, but Max he said it’s important for him to enjoy what he’s doing. In 10 years Max pictures himself just out of graduate school.

“Hopefully I’ll be working in a hospital. I don’t know if I’ll want to go into research or be a physician,” he said. “Right now I just want to make it through my senior year.”