Hannah Smith and Luis Garcia were both just 15 years old at the very first NITOC back in 2010.
Hannah competed for 3 more years in team policy, parliamentary debate, and all of the speech events. Highlights include national titles in Impromptu, Duo Interpretation, and Tournament Champion of the 2013 NITOC her senior year. After Hannah’s high school graduation, she attended Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, where she majored in Journalism and Mass Communication with a Spanish minor. During her four years at the university, she performed in several plays, her favorite role being Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austen’s "Sense and Sensibility". She also worked for two years as a university student ambassador and was elected senior class president.
Luis competed one more year, in which he achieved the national title for Apologetics, Impromptu, and 1st on Speechranks for the 2010-11 competitive season. After high school, Luis went on to complete a Bachelor of Science in Bible and Theology at Liberty University. He also took on multiple ministry opportunities, including a two-year pastoral internship, two short-term mission trips (one to El Salvador and the other to Ethiopia), a summer interim pastor position, along with preaching opportunities at individual churches. He now studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is only one year away from completing his Masters of Divinity.
It’s interesting to note that at the close of Luis’ senior year during the 2010-2011 season, he was ranked 1st on Speechranks while Hannah was ranked second. Hannah says, “If you can’t beat ‘em, marry ‘em!” And that’s precisely what she did. They kept in touch over the years, reconnected as coaches at some speech camps, and began a long-distance relationship while they were both in college.
After Hannah graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in May of 2017, Luis and Hannah wed on June 17th, 2017. Shortly after they moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where they currently reside, as Luis continues his education. Their highlight of 2018 by far was the birth of their son Ezra Luis Garcia on March 21st. Moving forward, Luis will graduate with his masters in December of 2019 and plans to enter a doctoral program in New Testament studies the following year. While they are open to whatever the Lord may have for them, they plan to move their family back to California where Luis hopes to pastor a church and/or teach at the seminary level.
Looking back, they see how their footprint in Stoa has opened up countless opportunities that would not have been possible otherwise and equipped them to follow their God-given callings. In summary, Hannah says, “We will always be grateful for our time spent in Stoa and hope that one day our children will get the opportunity to compete as well.”