During their June 8 regular meeting, Spring ISD board members honored Spring High School 2021 graduate Zoë Taylor, who was recently named an Academic All-American by the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA). Taylor met the requirements to earn the award over the spring semester of her senior year, and now joins classmate and fellow alumna Toneelea Shaftner as only the second Spring High School student ever to receive the Academic All-American distinction, one of the highest honors in speech and debate.
“The award recognizes a commitment to active, consistent participation in speech and debate, as well as to high academic achievement in general,” said Chief Communications Officer Sylvia Wood during the presentation at the board meeting. “It’s a rare honor, making it especially impressive that Spring High School this year has produced not one but two Academic All-Americans.”
The NSDA Academic All-American award recognizes high school students who have achieved the degree of “Superior Distinction” by earning at least 750 points in their NSDA profile through their speech and debate-related activities and accomplishments. In addition, Academic All-American winners must have completed at least five semesters of high school, demonstrate outstanding character and leadership, and must have earned a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. According to promotional materials from NSDA, only the top two percent of member students ever receive the Academic All-American award.
Taylor first got involved in speech and debate while she was a student at Dueitt Middle School, and has been an active participant in theater as well as speech and debate ever since, including serving as President of Spring High School’s Mighty Lion Speech & Debate Team for the 2020-21 school year, in addition to other offices she held previously.
“She has been an officer in our speech program for two years, a national qualifier in both theater and speech, and a role model to middle school students as a judge and a junior coach,” said Marilyn Ocker, Spring High School’s speech and debate coach and theater department head, who has worked with Taylor since the latter was a student at Dueitt. “Finally, after four years of participation, she has attained the All-American status, and we are so very proud.”
Taylor, who is headed to Atlanta this fall to begin undergraduate studies at the School of Film, Media & Theatre at Georgia State University, said she was happy to have earned the All-American designation before graduating, and thanked her teacher and Spring High School classmates.
“I just want to say it’s such an honor to be here in front of you accepting this award,” Taylor told the trustees. “I would like to thank my family; my speech and debate coach, Mrs. Ocker; and my teammates for trusting and supporting me throughout my high school career. I wouldn’t be here without them, without their support. Thank you.”
Spring ISD Assistant Director of Performing and Visual Arts (PVA) David Landgrebe praised Taylor’s accomplishment, also noting the strong correlation between top students’ participation in arts programs and higher academic engagement and overall performance in school.
“Zoë, we are so proud of you. Thank you for being such a wonderful representative of Spring ISD,” Landgrebe said. “We can’t wait to see the great things that are going to happen in your future career.”