In 2004, at the age of twelve, Frankie Cena entered his first public speaking competition on the topic “The Perfect Job”. That same year, he advanced from his school to the regional round and ended up going all the way to the Burnaby District Final with a speech comparing Celine Dion, Johnny Cochran, and his elementary school janitor. As the runner up of the event, Frankie realized that he had found his passion for oratory.
At the end of grade seven, Frankie would deliver the valedictory speech for his school and be asked to join the high school debate team. Here a passion for oratory became a love for debate and public speaking. All through his high school career at Burnaby Mountain, he excelled by winning numerous competitions including Golden Gnomes and the Regional Debate Championships twice, and becoming an Optimist Oratorical International Finalist and runner-up speaker at the Heart of Europe International Debating Competition in the Czech Republic. But although Frankie’s days as a competitor drew to a close, his involvement in the debate world was just beginning.
In 2008, just four years after he began debating, Frankie became a volunteer coach at Burnaby Mountain. Under his tutelage, his students became Regional Champions and the winners of the International Tournament of Champions, and managed to qualify for prestigious events such as the Canadian National Speech Championships and Team Canada Tryouts. Frankie coached his team to many more victories for the next four years.
While coaching at Burnaby Mountain, Frankie was hired by New Era Academy as their Head Instructor. He was able to improve his curriculum as he ran debate camps, held private and group sessions, and hosted tournaments. Frankie worked with New Era from 2011-2013.
In 2011, while still simultaneously coaching at Burnaby Mountain and New Era, Frankie achieved one of his foremost personal goals by becoming the debate coach of Vancouver’s top all-girls school, Crofton House. With the talent and hard work of these dedicated women, he went on to lead the Crofton Debate team to victory at Vancouver Regional Championships, BC Provincial Championships, and the International Championship for Young Debaters 1st Place Team amongst many other 1st place finishes at many more tournaments. One member of this team, Tatiana Kurschner, went on to become the Top Female Speaker at the 2014 World Speech Championships and a member of the Team Canada Debate Development Squad. He continues to work to achieve new heights with the Crofton team.
In 2012, Frankie took several students to the same International Debating Competition that he had competed in, Heart of Europe. Nine students, known affectionately as the “Original Nine”, competed against numerous teams from around the world. Luciano Kwon, who went on to be featured on the CBC, was the youngest at the age of 10, while Dena Tabyanian and Behbod Negabhan, two of the oldest, would later become members of Team Canada. The nine students (in three teams of three) defied all of the odds and advanced to the Octo Final Rounds. Eventually, one team made it all the way to the finals for a second place finish. This marked the beginning of Frankie’s involvement in coaching on the International Circuit.
After that summer, Frankie was hired by Wesley Academy as their
Director of Speech and Debate. Here he formalized a curriculum for students in grade 3 to 12 and hired his former students to help teach classes. With their assistance, he has been able to deliver various programs from Model UN to Poetry to Speech and Debate. The program at Wesley continues to grow as students from across BC seek out Frankie’s weekly classes.
Entering his tenth year of speech and debate in 2013, Frankie was privileged to achieve another personal goal and dream. He was hired by the School Board of Denmark to coach their National Team. Frankie trained his team intensely for the task, flying to Denmark twice for Pre Worlds Training Camps, and taking them to the World Schools Debating Championship in Bangkok, Thailand. The team reached a personal best of 5 Wins and was just one vote away from advancing to the Octo-Finals. Frankie will be returning to coach Denmark in 2015 at the World Championship in Singapore.
Currently, Frankie is working at Crofton House School, coaching Team Denmark, working at Wesley Academy, and continuing to take students from all over the province abroad to compete at international events. But he is always restless to find out what opportunity will strike next.