Our February spotlight features Denise Sprimont, who competed with S.C.A.R.L.E.T. in Irvine, CA, from 2010-2016. She attended Concordia University Irvine after high school where she received her bachelor’s degree in History and Political Thought and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Modern Middle Eastern Studies in the Center for Middle Eastern History at the University of Chicago.
She got her start in Stoa because of its alumni. Graduates came to her homeschool co-op to speak about their experience with speech and debate and Denise’s family knew at that moment that Stoa would be a great fit for them. Denise went to a speech and debate camp that summer, and started competing in the Fall.
She now laughs at how nervous and terrified she was as a first year competitor, but as the years went by, Denise grew to love Stoa and its strong Christian core. That appreciation was evident when she discussed her favorite speech event – Original Oratory – saying, “[O.O.] was such a ministry – not only to the judges, but also to myself! It was a way to ingrain God’s word in my everyday life.”
For Denise, the idea of Stoa being a ministry to both judges and herself also showed up in her favorite NITOC memory:
“My senior year, I made it to finals in Apologetics. Instead of a tense atmosphere outside the competition room, there was a sense of joy and excitement. Every one of the eight competitors in finals was a personal friend of mine. We prayed together before the round. Instead of praying for success, we prayed that we would be a witness to someone in the room. When it was my turn to speak, I felt compelled to give a speech on Hinduism and sure enough, I drew a category 6 question on Hinduism. After I had given my speech, I didn’t think much about it. Later, a parent who had become a family friend stopped me to talk about my apologetics round. He explained to me that on the way to NITOC, he had met a Hindu man and woman on the plane and invited them to attend NITOC and watch speeches. They had been in the Apologetics round and had heard my speech! They found him and told him that a speech on Hinduism challenged their beliefs and impacted them. To date, that remains the most important speech I gave– not because of a cool award or title, but because I saw the fruit of the event come to fruition inside the competition room!”
Going beyond the life-giving nature of Apologetics, Denise also pointed out how speech and debate gave her the critical thinking skills necessary to analyze and interact with the national security environment. These skills have become integral to her pursuit of a master’s degree in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. Her aim after graduation is to work in the national security sector in a think tank. “Like many others,” she said, “I want to make an impact on US policy. My graduate degree will further prepare me to do just that.”
Denise received one more treasure out of Stoa: her fiancé! She explained: “Konrad Hack introduced me to David Vasquez my senior year and explained that we were the two most sarcastic Stoa competitors (in retrospect, I’m sure Konrad had grander plans…which of course came true five years later). We both went to Concordia University Irvine, and were debate partners for all four years of our collegiate debate career (we finished first overall in the nation our senior year!). We became engaged in the summer of 2020. In addition, our two closest friends are also Stoa competitors. Although we did not know each other in Stoa, our likemindedness and shared love of debate and Christ made us fast friends in college.”
Finally, she also urges alumni to make the most out of the connections they have from Stoa. “Your experience as an alumni is what you make it – be intentional. I have been incredibly influenced by a mentor of mine who, despite living states away and being in a totally different stage of life, made time for me. Whether it was questions about graduate school, debate theory, undergraduate, or even career advice, he has always answered when I call. You never know what that intentionality will do in the life of another. For me, it encouraged me to stay involved in Stoa, push myself, and apply to grad school.”