February Club Students of the Month

March 25, 2022

Danielle Davenport


Danielle Davenport, a woman with the greatest leadership skills I have seen in our generation, has earned the honor of February Student of the Month for her position as Debate Captain here at FTHS’s Forensics Team and success as a varsity debater. Her dedication to the craft of public speaking and admirable willingness to help others is not only inspiring to her fellow teammates but the Freehold Township community as a whole. Her team has even created a word, “Danification,” in her honor to express the vast skill set they have learned after gaining knowledge from their valiant leader. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dani to discuss her leadership position, personal tips and tricks, and her future as a powerful woman in government.

Why the forensics team?

– I originally picked the forensics team only because I tried every single other sport or club throughout my childhood, not at FTHS, and none of them stuck out. So what I think what pushed me to try forensics was because I love social studies and I’ve always loved talking and presenting, so my history teacher told me in sophomore year that I should just do it [forensics] just to try it because A lot of other people with the same interests were doing it. 

What made you take on the position as a leadership role? 

– It’s kind of been a difficult journey especially because in my sophomore year, and really most of my early high school career, I just felt really lost and didn’t know where I fit. I’m the type of person who moved around all throughout their childhood so I never really had a core friend group and was always looking for “my place” at school. When I first came into forensics, there was the same feeling involved as it felt like everyone already knew each other and I just didn’t, but what kept me going was that I knew that I wanted to be very, very good at the activity, was serious about it,  and wanted to go to nationals (I did end up going). But when I first entered, I was very lonely because I didn’t get any feedback and oftentimes found myself in a rut since I was constantly trapped in a spot of not knowing how to improve. I was doing poorly or I was stagnating and didn’t know how to get out of it. So stepping into a leadership role as a senior was a calling for me. I want more people to experience the love I have for this activity and I want people to grow their voice and be better public speakers. I want to be a teacher, a mentor, a role model, and really an older sister for the underclassmen on my team. 

How do you balance your position, academics, and social life?

– It’s really difficult because with forensics, it is my social life. The club is a speaking club where I go up and debate, so when I’m preparing for it, my teammates are my friends because we are all preparing to do the same thing.  Besides that, keeping a schedule is key. In my calendar, I always map out what time I’m doing things. If I set a time to something then I’m committing to it. Usually my routine looks like this: 

  • Monday and Wednesday- going hard on school, studying for 3-4 hours 
  • Tuesday and Thursday (debate heavy days)- debate practice, making phone calls to people to discuss how practice went and how we can do better, and light school review
  • Friday (if it is before a tournament)- have the Junior Varsity (JV) kids come over to my house to do 1-on-1 intense practice for 8 hours

Overall, I just love pushing people to their potential because I see it in them, so I want them to capitalize on that as best as they can.  Having an outlet or a couch is sometimes all you need to get better and I’ve seen my kids astronomically improve just as time has gone on. For example, some have qualified for states at the novice division, otherwise known as the freshmen or first-year division, then months later qualified again for the JV division, and now are working towards varsity all in a matter of a few months. 

In correlation, what are some of your hobbies and interests?

– I think it is really important to have some hobbies to decompress because forensics can be a very stressful activity. I like to read, when I get the time to, and cook. I like to make dinner for myself and bake all types of stuff. I also do archery, which helps clear my head, and meditate to get myself in the game. In whatever you do, you have to put in your 100%. If your mind is preoccupied with other things, you have to clear it to focus or else won’t put that effort in. 

Since you’re a senior and committed to George Washington University (GWU), what profession are you looking to pursue?

– Ultimately, I want to be a Senator. I love public speaking and am all about policy and advocacy. I think pitching my policy on the national stage and seeing the impact it could have on millions of people is the ultimate goal. However, I want to study political science, economics, and a little of international affairs at GWU because I want to focus on policy ideas to take issues that people complain about and do something about it. My number one response is always to just “do something” to solve the complaint. 

As a young woman going into a male dominated career, what are your tips and tricks with dealing with misogyny?

– I think that as a woman trying to challenge anything, you’ll always be faced with misogyny. No matter what it is, people don’t take women seriously in any regard so I don’t think it intimidates me that much. However, my number one tip with dealing with misogyny is being willing to call people out when it happens. It usually takes the form of men telling you that you don’t know what you’re talking about so if you know exactly what you’re saying and have sources to back it up, that’s what will combat it. That is why I also love forensics because when I debate, I usually have facts backing me up from peer review journals, meta analysis, esteemed newspapers. What I’m saying is true and I know exactly how to defend myself against people who tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s really just staying two steps ahead of the game. 

Is that how you plan on tackling the field as a whole?

– Absolutely! If I am constantly on top of my craft, working towards becoming better and looking at a society to acknowledge what the zeitgeist is of the time, then I know how to craft a policy position. No one can tell you what your own life experience is because you’re the only one who has lived it. That’s how I plan to govern. 

Who is your biggest role model in your personal life and in your prospective career?

– The biggest role model in my personal life is my aunt. She is an entrepreneur and works as a public speaker which I love. She also knows how to balance having fun with being productive. I adore that and it’s something I want to mimic in my own life. In my career, I am really inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) because she is the number one example of someone who knows that she knows her community and her experience the best and even though I don’t always agree with her on policy, I know for a fact that she goes into Congress to stand up for what she believes in and to me, that’s what life is all about. 

 Back to why you are here, how has debate influenced your life in and outside of the school building?

– Debate has given me a community of people who actually challenge how I’m thinking. For example, everyone who is super good at debate is usually good at school too. I know people who are/were top-of-their-class for Global Studies or are in IB that are in the team. So for me, being around other people who are good at school has made me good at it too. Looking at how they study and approach academics has made me understand what it means to be good at school in the first place. Outside of the building, it has really helped me develop my own interest. Debate is all about researching, creativity, and coming up with strategy so now, I am always looking into different concepts of our world and society and other extracurriculars. I really try and learn as much as I can 

Would you say that is how you have utilized debate skills within your daily life?

– Absolutely! For example, I wake up and I listen to NPR which is something I do because of debate. I want to research and learn more things and I never would have thought this way if debate hadn’t influenced me to. 

You are one of the most confident individuals I’ve ever met. What messages or life lessons have helped you establish such power?

– The first, biggest lesson I have to say about confidence is no one really knows what they are doing but if you believe that you are doing the best you can, that is where the confidence comes from. So when I take tests, I don’t know if I answered a question correctly and in fact, I always go back and forth to check whether it is right or not. However, when I talk about things or present ideas, I do it with the conviction that I’m doing my absolute best. If you are confident that you are trying your best, then you can remain confident. 

What advice do you have for underclassmen scared to put themselves out there?

– The biggest advice for underclassmen wanting to put themselves out there is no one is paying attention or cares. Most people show up to school just to show up. I see so many people who just come to go on their phones all day and do absolutely nothing. If you’re presenting in class, no one is paying attention to what is being said because they just want to go home. If you put yourself out there, people will forget in a matter of 30 minutes.

Last question, and the most important: are you team doors or wheels?

– I am team wheels. People might think there are more doors in the world because there are a lot of them, but wheels can take form in any matter. Also, you don’t usually see a singular wheel but rather multiple wheels at a time. For example, cars do have doors but there are also wheels on cars to make it go. If you have a dolly, then there are multiple wheels on each corner making sure the dolly remains balanced.

Here’s what Mr. Sylvester, the Speech and Debate advisor, had to say about Danielle:

“Danielle is a highly experienced debater who has enjoyed much success over the years in Varsity Public Forum Debate at the local and national levels, Danielle’s role as captain of the Debate team is unparalleled. Danielle demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to educating our novices on all of the idiosyncrasies of Public Forum Debate. Even though I (Mr. Sylvester) am the advisor, Danielle is the one who actually runs our debate practice and any success our PF debate team has had this season can be directly attributed to her efforts. Whether it is hosting voluntary practices outside of school practice, routinely challenging novices to engage in practice debate, giving critical feedback, or just providing general advice on how to succeed academically and in life, Danielle’s devotion to her team is incontrovertible. So much so, the new members of our team have coined the term “Danification” to describe the experience/process of being instilled with the knowledge taught by Danielle. Being an ideal role model senior, her absence will not go unnoticed next year. However, I believe it is safe to say that much of our debate team has been adequately Danified who will be sure to pass on the traditions of Township Debate.”

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Joseph Paderon


Joe Paderon is a senior member of Patriot Productions, the drama club at FTHS. He plays the role of Bobby in his last show, Curtains, the murder mystery musical that ran from March 10th-12th. As a leader in this organization, Joe is known for making everyone laugh, being a role model, and showing so much love to everyone involved in each production. I spoke to Joe about his experiences with performing over the past four years, and it’s evident that his spirit will live on with the drama program long after he graduates.

Hey Joe!

– Hello everyone! Hello world!

Congratulations on winning club student of the month for the drama club!

– Thank you!

So, to begin, what is it like being a senior in the drama club?

– It’s kind of a bittersweet and amazing feeling. I remember when I was a freshman and was the baby of the club, looking up to my senior friends and following their lead. By the time they graduated, I cried, and now it’s my time as a senior to take on the role of a leader who underclassmen can look up to. And hopefully I won’t cry as much. It’s a good feeling to know the growth I made in this club, both in acting and my personal character. The relationships I’ve made in this club so far are so valuable, and now makes it more bittersweet because I’m leaving. 

Aw! Especially considering that, how has the rehearsal process been? There have been returning performers, plus new faces, so how was it working with everyone?

– It was definitely something. Rehearsals are always fun, sometimes a pain in the butt, but it’s a great experience. Minus the mistakes, it’s a fun thing to do with your friends. Singing, dancing, acting – all of that. We even make mistakes together, which is always bound to happen, but it’s nice to laugh it off with friends and grow from it. 

I definitely understand. With everything about drama, what kept you in this club throughout your high school career? 

– It’s a funny story, but I wasn’t even planning on doing drama in high school. Mrs. Conners, actually, made me do the fall play my freshman year. I didn’t even audition because they needed boys, but she asked my choir class for any volunteers. I raised my hand and I was pushed into callbacks the next day, with that being my “audition”. The rest is history. I stayed because I fell in love with the people and what they stood for. The club is basically our love for the arts, so that kept me going all these years. 

I feel you. The community in drama is really something you can’t find anywhere else. What upperclassmen in the club have influenced you and this idea of a family?

– Well, definitely Riley Martin. She was a senior in 2019 and probably one of the biggest triple-threats I’ve seen on stage. Not only an amazing performer and person, but she really was the light of the club back then. Riley is pursuing musical theater in college, too, so she’s still pushing herself artistically. She was a great role model, but a greater caretaker and mother-figure to all. She just wanted to help others, and you can’t find another like her anywhere else. I love you Riley Martin!

Totally switching directions here, but in Curtains, you play the role of Bobby. With all of the dancing and singing that comes with the role, what has been your favorite moment while portraying him?

– I like my dancing a lot because Bobby Pepper is a choreographer in the show within a show, so he’s in a lot of the big group numbers. My favorite has to be the “Thataway!” dance, and some of my scenes with Joe Wicke, Natalie [Moradian], and Noah [Zalika]. My favorite line, actually, is a scene with all of them and Paige [Wehner] when I go “Career! Caarrreeer! Careeeeerr!”. 

Haha, yes. Curtains is also one of the first full-length musicals back in the auditorium after COVID. Do you feel a sense of nostalgia or find yourself reminiscing after being gone from the stage?

– Well of course. I didn’t even do the show last year, Seussical, so coming back was like my big return to the stage. It was a very rewarding experience, bringing back memories to what this club and the arts were like before the pandemic. I did shows like How to Succeed and Hello Dolly my freshman and sophomore year, so it totally brought the nostalgia back for sure – which is an amazing feeling. 

Of course. Now you’re a senior, what do you hope to leave with all of the underclassmen as a legacy? 

– I hope that everyone knows what’s leaving is an icon. Kidding. But, I want everyone to have fun with themselves. In this club, it seems high-intensity with the amount of critiques we get, the mistakes we make, and the yelling that happens, but at the end of the day, you have to laugh. There are times to be serious, but if you’re able to find a balance where you can goof around and have fun, the experience is more enjoyable. 

One last cliché question: What would you tell your freshman self after all of these experiences throughout high school? 

– I would tell my freshman self to calm down. Don’t be so stressed. Before high school, I was worried about doing the right thing all the time, but now, being less stressed allowed me to be more happy. Let things happen. It’s not up to you at the end of the day, and the best thing to do is let life take its course. 

Here’s what Mrs. Richardson and Ms. Robbins, co-directors of Curtains, had to say about Joe:

“Joe has shown extensive leadership throughout the rehearsal process in preparation for the spring musical, Curtains. He is welcoming to new members, makes everyone laugh, and is respectful to the advisors and his fellow students. He is so passionate about theater and his love for the art is contagious. He is a key member of our club and one we will miss tremendously in the coming years.”

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