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10th Graders Impress at Sophomore Public-Speaking Contest
Ashley Taube

The ten students selected by their classmates and English teachers to compete in the Sophomore Public-Speaking Contest on April 29 had a difficult task at hand. Standing in front of a crowded DuBois Theatre in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, they were asked to reflect upon and share the significance of a piece of media in their lives with the Blair community. It is a tall order, but as English department chair and contest coordinator Jim Moore, Hon. ’93, points out, others in the room had an equally difficult assignment—the judges.

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As one of five distinguished Blair faculty selected for the role, college counselor and former sophomore English teacher Molly Hoyer focused on three criteria throughout the three- to five-minute speeches: a strong presence in the performance, deep insight into the question at hand in the writing and a sense of authenticity throughout.

“It's a hard balance to strike, but it makes for a truly meaningful speech,” Ms. Hoyer explained.

As the judges took notes, the orators shared books, songs, videos and other media that struck a chord with them to a captivated audience. Mr. Moore noted an abundance of creative license the speakers utilized with the prompt and the thoughtfulness they gave to the assignment.

“As we have come to expect from the sophomores, it was a fine lineup of speeches and each speech was met with rousing, enthusiastic and well-deserved applause,” Mr. Moore shared.

After a week of anticipation, Mr. Moore took to the stage at Friday School Meeting to announce Arturo Lopez ’26, James Gibbons ’26 and Gray Beall ’26 as this year’s first, second and third place winners, respectively.

“This experience helped me complete a goal of mine,” Gray said. “As a ninth-grader, I made a goal to speak onstage before I graduated, but I always thought it would be a small announcement. Going onstage and reading my speech really proved how I’ve grown in confidence.”

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Gray’s experience is one of the many reasons why the annual public-speaking contest has remained a fixture in Blair’s longstanding school-wide initiative to teach students the art of effective communication. Along with newfound confidence, English 2 teacher Amira Shokr explains that the public-speaking unit teaches students the components of a well-crafted speech and encourages them to connect with and understand the audience as they articulate their thoughts and ideas. 

“Students are excited to share their stories and to use the platform of the competition to express those stories with a larger audience and connect with the rest of their peers,” Ms. Shokr said. “From my perspective, it’s always nice to see how students try a new medium of expression and use the literary skills we’ve been learning to emphasize importance in their stories.”

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