Students showcase public-speaking skills

Sam Odrowski

Parents, teachers, educators, and members of the community turned out to the Robert Moore School gym last Wednesday evening for the Rainy River District School Board’s annual district speech contest.
Students from Fort High, J.W. Walker, Robert Moore, Crossroads, Donald Young, Riverview, and the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program delivered speeches in hopes of nabbing first place.
Jenna Bailey of Fort High captured first place for her speech on “Gender Equality.”
Second place went to Kayla Pater (S.C.A.P.), who spoke about “Crazy Truths,” while third place was awarded to Ayiana Gagne (Robert Moore) for her speech on “The Bermuda Triangle.”
Eleven different speeches were given covering a multitude of topics, including the colonization of Mars, living in the moment, pointless trends, organ donation, over thinking, and comedy.
Bailey’s speech touched on the recent “Me Too” campaign, gender-based stereotypes, and women’s rights in countries like Saudi Arabia.
“We’re in the year 2018 and there are women in Saudi Arabia who still can’t vote,” she said during her speech.
“Not having the right to vote is like not being able to share your opinion.”
Bailey tied it all together at the end by saying, “The moral of my speech is not to make anyone feel like the bad guy. It was to communicate , in my opinion, gender equality does not truly exist.
“Sure, we have improved since 1950 but we still haven’t reached our full potential,” she stressed.
Pater used her speech to outline popular fears, crazy fears, and phobias among celebrities.
When the judges asked Pater what her greatest fear was, she replied, “I’m afraid of not being perfect and I think that’s a pretty common fear with a lot of people.”
She said her mother helps her deal with this fear by offering reassurance and reminding her “nobody is perfect.”
Gagne, meanwhile, dug into the “unknown” with her speech on the “Bermuda Triangle,” referring to specific incidents while talking about certain theories that aim to explain the phenomenon.
“I’ve always been interested in conspiracy theories and stuff surrounding the unknown,” she replied when asked what drew her to write a speech about the “Bermuda Triangle.”
The winning contestants were awarded trophies while and all who took part left with a “Certificate of Participation” to recognize their efforts.
Event organizers Allison Simpson and Char Bliss were happy to provide the public-speaking opportunity to youths across the district.
“It’s just great to see the kids do something that involves building confidence in their public-speaking skills,” noted Simpson.
The speeches also allowed for students to step out of their comfort zones and speak in front of their class without feeling too vulnerable, said Bliss.
“It’s often done in a safe environment, in the classroom, because the teachers spend time talking about being respectful listeners, how to question, and how to engage with an audience,” she noted.
Bliss has been a part of speech contests at the school level for the last five years and always is surprised by the quality and delivery of the students’ speeches.
“I’m always amazed by how comfortable the kids are presenting in this format,” she lauded. “I don’t know if I would have been that comfortable as a Grade 6 or 7 student.”
She also is astounded by how prepared many of the students are for their speeches.
“Some of them literally know that speech from beginning to end,” Bliss stressed.
“They don’t really use their cue cards,” she noted. “You can see some of them just flipping them because they know that that’s the next phase of their speech.”
Simpson said she was more impressed by the students’ fantastic responses during the question period that followed each of their speeches.
“I’m always surprised by the questioning part,” she admitted. “They can respond so well to questions that are just thrown at them and they give such articulate answers at such a young age.
“They’re so able to just speak to their topics at will.”
Simpson said the contestants had a lot of time to develop their speeches, but “the questioning period is what shows they can think on their toes and communicate their thinking in an articulate way.”
She sees the speeches as an accumulation of all of the students’ research, writing, and speaking skills that are developed throughout the school year.
“It’s an opportunity to put it all together,” Simpson reasoned.
“They take everything we teach them and find a way to communicate that, so it’s just everything coming to fruition that they have learned over the year.”
The speeches also allowed for those on hand to learn a little bit about each of the contestants.
“We could see some themes tonight, so it gives a little bit of insight into what their worlds are like,” Simpson explained.
Both Bliss and Simpson are happy to organize the speech contest and provide a space where students can be recognized for their public-speaking efforts.
“I really enjoy being a part of it,” Bliss enthused. “It’s really nice to see the kids do this.”
“And be a part of their memorable experience,” echoed Simpson.
She and Bliss would like to congratulate all the contestants who competed at this year’s speech contest.
Both also hope to help with next year’s contest in some capacity, whether it’s at the school or district level.