All In The Campaign for Blair Academy 2018-2025
Atlas Akinyemiju Sophomore speech
Minh Anh Vo Sophomore Speech
Joss Miller Sophomore Speech
Sophomore Speech Contest Captivates Blair
Ashley Schreyer

As the lights shone on the stage of the Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre, ten anxious sophomores waited with bated breath for their opportunity to stand at the podium and address their class. Each student—selected by their teacher and classmates—came equipped with weeks of preparation for this very moment.

The Sophomore Speech Contest is an annual rite of passage for Blair sophomores. After recording their Leadership Stories Projects as ninth graders, taking the stage is the next step up in the School’s mission of preparing our graduates to communicate effectively as they become the leaders of tomorrow. Effective storytelling and the ability to convey values are key leadership skills students learn throughout their time at Blair as they build relationships on campus and beyond.

On April 24, the ten chosen orators rose to the challenge, answering the prompt “Where I Am,” a question asking them to consider a space or place that impacts their identity and that of others. With wit, charm and humor, the speakers captivated the audience, using the tools they’ve learned throughout their time at Blair.

“This is a fantastic assignment,” English department chair Jim Moore says, explaining that the contest requires students to learn and engage in a variety of skills. “They have to focus on narrative essay writing, knowing their audience, enunciation and pace. The question challenges them to think about the places they keep going back to and why, what’s the meaning in that.”

To prepare for the speeches, English teachers take several different approaches. Amira Shokr asked her classes to analyze the rhetorical techniques of ethos, pathos and logos used in commercial advertisements. “This served to help students understand how to connect a message to audiences through credibility, emotion and logic and how to be effectively persuasive in doing so,” Ms. Shokr explained.

Fellow English teacher Caroline Queally encouraged her classes to analyze winning speeches from previous years to understand effective techniques to incorporate when conveying their own message. “All of the classes, regardless of their teacher, have practiced speaking confidently through R.E.A.L. Discussions over the past year,” Ms. Queally noted. “It is a fast-paced process that builds on skills taught and practiced throughout the year, and each year seems to top itself in terms of how talented and well-done the winning speeches are.”

After an intense deliberation, the faculty judges awarded first place to Atlas Akinyemiju ’25, second place to Minh Anh Vo ’25 and third place to Joss Miller ’25, who reflected upon the impacts of their bed, the nail salon, and the middle seat on an airplane, respectively. The next speaking event will be the Senior Speech Contest on Monday, May 15.

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