Blue Valley West hosts world’s largest academic competition

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Some of the best and brightest students in the nation are in Overland Park this week for the world's largest academic competition. Blue Valley West High School is one of seven venues hosting the National Speech and Debate Tournament.

Top students from more than 1,000 schools across the country are in Overland Park for the biggest event this city has ever hosted.

These kids are the best of the best, competing in events like public speaking, interpretative acting and four different styles of debate. Winners are awarded college scholarships. During seven days, more than 7,000 students, parents and teachers book more than 16,000 hotel room nights. Organizers say you're likely to see a lot of young people in suits and dresses at restaurants and other Overland Park attractions this week.

"In the entire metro area we're probably looking at almost $10 million in economic impact," said J. Scott Wunn, executive director of the National Speech and Debate Association. "The Overland Park restaurants, the reason they will be packed this week is because of our students and our coaches. That's the reason the hotels are packed. It's a proud moment for us to come and let everyone know that the activity exists. It's thriving and in the state of Kansas speech and debate is alive and well."

Students told FOX 4 News it takes a lot of hard work to qualify for such a prestigious competition.

"I most look forward to hanging out with my friends from speech and debate and really getting to know people from around the nation and really expanding my knowledge about speech and debate," said Ryan Jackson, a high school sophomore from Crandall, Texas. There's also an international debate competition that includes students from Korea, China and Bulgaria. Organizers say speech and debate hones listening, research and critical thinking skills that help develop tomorrow's leaders.

But there's also time for fun. Students will gather at the new Prairiefire museum later this week to try to set the Guiness World Record for the most people sending a text message.

Kansas City took a lot of civic pride in hosting the FFA for so many years. Now, clean cut speech and debate students give many of their hosts that same feeling.

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