March 18, 2018
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Two Bangor High School debaters financing own trip to national competition

By Joni Averill

Two members of the Bangor High School Forensic Team who qualified to compete in the National Forensic League Tournament June 13-18 in Dallas, Texas, are financing the trip themselves.

And while junior Rami Blair has raised the money he needs, freshman Jan Tompkins only has half of the $1,000 it will take to get him there, which is why he hopes you will help him out by visiting him on Facebook at and clicking on “donate” or by visiting his blog at and doing the same.

Joe Pelletier is the BHS debate coach, and he told me it is unusual for a freshman to qualify for national competition, but Jan has a good role model in Rami.

“When Rami qualified two years ago, as a freshman, we couldn’t remember when a [BHS] freshman had qualified before,” Joe said.

Jan qualified for the nationals by placing second in February at the national qualifying tournament in Auburn where that finish made him first alternate, meaning if the winner couldn’t make the trip he would, and that is what happened.

Rami will be competing in the Student Congress which, Joe explained, is best described as a mock legislature, something Rami has competed in previously.

“Last year [Rami] broke into the semifinals and our goal, this year, is to break into the finals,” Joe said.

Rami, who will be competing on the Senate side of the Legislature “definitely has a legitimate shot [at getting to the finals] and we haven’t had one from Maine make it to the finals in many years,” Joe said.

He added that while Jan had competed all year as a debater, he volunteered to try Foreign Extemp (extemporaneous) for the qualifying tournament, and that’s how he qualified.

In Dallas, Jan will be competing in that category, which will involve knowing what is happening in foreign affairs.

This is a current events category and means that Jan has to be paying very close attention to everything that is going on in the world, every day, he told me.

“It could be questions about China or Egypt or Libya,” he said, “and I need to be reading the news a lot, and getting a wide view of the world.

“I have to know how to defend whatever I believe, depending on the question.”

For his first year as a debater, Jan did say he was a little nervous at the beginning when he had “a bunch of new things thrown at me, but a couple of my friends had joined the team and I wanted to see what it was like and how it would turn out” which, for him, was very well, indeed.

Jan said he is pleased to be going to Dallas and is working hard to spread the word among family, friends and supporters that he needs some financial assistance to make the journey.

And although Jan and Rami are, technically, making this trip on their own, they are not literally traveling alone.

“They will be piggybacking with a debate coach from Maranacook [in Readfield] who will act as their chaperone,” Joe explained. “Debate coaches are good about that. They take care of other kids.”

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402;; 990-8288.

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