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John's Journal: Duluth East Student Named Hearts Of The Arts Winner

Debate Participant Juniper Kelly-Swing Is Selflessly Committed To The Success Of Others

Posted: Monday, February 5, 2024 - 5:16 PM


Juniper Kelly-Swing is recognized at the state debate tournament.


Juniper Kelly-Swing from Duluth East High School is a veteran debate team member who has accomplished much in her high school career to the betterment of others. To honor commitment to her school, fellow students and the community, Juniper has been named this year’s recipient of the MSHSL Heart of the Arts award.

The Heart of the Arts award program, which was instituted by the National Federation of State High School Associations in 2014, honors individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts and represent the core mission of education-based activities.

Juniper is a senior captain and has been a Public Forum debater for the past three years. They were recruited in a pinch and helped a lone senior debater have a partner their final year. Since then, Juniper has been committed to the success of the Debate team.

Juniper stepped up right away and independently worked to recruit new members to the Duluth East debate team. They increased our debate team numbers in Lincoln Douglas and Public Forum by two fold. Right away, they built community by hosting a practice at a local park and organizing a shopping trip to make sure debaters had access to affordable and debate-ready clothes. Juniper has the respect of the team and is a role model to all.

Duluth East relies heavily on volunteers for Public Forum debate and Juniper assumed the role as a student coach to make sure debaters had the skills and techniques to debate in Public Forum. In addition to the usual role of warm-ups, they worked on link chains and turns, proofread cases, built up confidence in debaters, worked on partner dynamics, read through critiques and gave valuable feedback, and communicated with coaches about the team needs.

Juniper has been a National Qualifier in the Northern Lights District two years in a row (2023 and 2024) and a State Qualifier in Section 5 Debate in 2023.

Juniper has been the epitome of self-sacrificing, putting their own needs second to make sure our new novice debaters had a foundational understanding of debate. Juniper carries those ideals into all areas of life by serving on many community organizations including local food banks, animal shelters, and local area summer camps. Juniper doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walk. They are continuously advocating and using the voice they have learned from Speech and Debate. 

They are a full-time PSEO student at Lake Superior College but has managed to lead the East High School Gender Sexuality Alliance and boosted membership from 10 to 45 in their sophomore year. They have led change on gender neutral bathrooms by speaking in front of the Minnesota House for funds and coordinating with the school principal on the use of those funds to target specific bathroom spaces. They helped create the Duluth NQ2SLGBTIA+ Citywide GSA Commission along with a commission member to adopt city-wide inclusive policies for youth that foster positivity and change. The group has had an impact on many youth in the community.

Juniper is a strong advocate for democratic and civic ideals and has been a League of Women Voters Youth Civic Engagement Fellow. They have run voter registration tables, created presentations in high school government classes, and organized a meeting with the Minnesota Secretary of State to create a plan to engage youth in schools across Northern Minnesota. In addition, they have been a 4-H member, sat on a committee to improve Chester Park in Duluth and volunteered at the Great Lakes Aquarium. Juniper is a National Honor Society member that tutors young people and a commended National Merit Scholar based on academic scores.

Juniper understands that debate goes beyond the walls and into our community and greater society. Juniper is charismatic, outgoing, compassionate, and a change agent. They have always been about finding solutions and not just complaints. They work tirelessly for people and the less fortunate. They will continue debating in college or probably start a program if there isn’t one. Juniper will be sadly missed by the team and coaches but we know the world will be a better place with them in it.

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