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Sophomores Exhibit Wit & Wisdom in 2017 Public Speaking Contest

Posted: May 5, 2017

Ten sophomores took to the podium in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre on May 2 for the 2017 Sophomore Public Speaking Contest, an annual event that showcases the grade-level’s top speakers. Each contestant delivered a five-minute speech describing a group to which he or she belongs or once belonged, and, at the conclusion of the competition, Summer Will ’19 was named the winner, while Jillian Rogers ’19 and Jackie Chen ’19 took second and third place, respectively.

English teacher Mary Penn Lunger, this year’s contest coordinator, described how each speaker was judged by a panel of English faculty members on criteria including voice, poise, emotion, pacing and content. The competitors had been elected by their English section classmates and had invested significant time in contest preparation.

“Students repeatedly rehearsed their speeches, and teachers and peers helped the class winners perfect their delivery,” Mrs. Lunger said, noting that students were permitted to use a script or notes, yet they were encouraged to know their speeches well enough to deliver them with ease and make eye contact often. “Since public speaking is all about practice, we allowed competitors extra practice time before the big event. It was great to see classes get behind their winners and coach them along during the final days leading up to the contest.”

The Sophomore Public Speaking Contest is one of the many facets of Blair’s comprehensive, curriculum-wide public speaking initiative that helps students develop effective speaking skills that put them a step ahead in college and, ultimately, in their careers. Mrs. Lunger believes that this annual event is especially important since it allows sophomores to pause halfway through their high school experience and evaluate their lives.

“The prompt steers them toward association with a group, but these groups take so many different forms,” she said. “Ultimately, the process of writing and speaking allows students to ask key questions about their lives: What do they value? How do they define themselves? What obstacles have they overcome? Attempting to answer these questions in a speech is a daunting task but one that students typically enjoy. The competition also serves as a warm-up for the capstone senior speech competition,” she concluded, “and we hope that it builds confidence.”

To watch the winning speeches, click "play" below.

Last Updated: May 10, 2017