Students Advance to Woodrow Wilson Speaking Competition Semifinals

The quarterfinal rounds of the annual Woodrow Wilson Public Speaking Competition were held this past Tuesday and Wednesday in the Woods Memorial Hall classrooms.

The quarterfinal rounds of the annual Woodrow Wilson Public Speaking Competition were held this past Tuesday and Wednesday in the Woods Memorial Hall classrooms. Judges selected 14 semifinalists this year: Awo Addo ’23, Kelsie Choi ’22, Elyssa Chou ’20, Zach Finnachio ’21, Caitlin Gu ’21, Stephanie Kim ’21, Deven Kinney ’20, Anjali Kumar ’21, Alex Liang ’21, Jack Patel ’23, Summer Qureshi ’22, Tesia Thomas ’22, Chelsea Wang ’21, and Michael Zhang ’21.

Students who participated in the quarterfinals were voted by their peers and English teachers to move on from the initial round after giving the best speech in their respective English classes. Ultimately, five finalists will speak at school meeting to determine the winner of the speaking competition.

The Woodrow Wilson Public Speaking Competition began about 25 years ago when former School Head Master Josiah Bunting voiced that “public speaking was an important and overlooked part of a Lawrentian’s education and story,” according to the coordinator of the speaking competition, Chair of the English Department Miranda Christoffersen P’14’18. Over its history, the competition has evolved: “In the first couple of years, the School really had to work on getting kids to buy into it. They did not want to do it, and it was not normal in their experience… Now it’s something every student does,” Christoffersen said.

While the competition initially begins in English classes for each student, Christoffersen believes that it is a “school wide project,” as judges come from every department. The reason that the speaking competition seems to be “housed in the English Department” originated from a logistical basis, as the only department in which every student took a course was English. Soon, this initial round in an English classes became tradition.

On the importance of the competition to student growth, Christoffersen said, “In almost every part of your life, there is a need to… stand up and speak to people and hold their attention.” From her perspective, “the most interesting speeches are the ones that are partly personal, but go beyond just telling a personal story—they have an argument to make… and sometimes there’s a little bit of a switch or a twist.” Opening her speech by singing Mama Mia!’s “Thank You for the Music,” Kumar’s speech focused on the wellness benefits of singing. “I was a little nervous at first, but since it is something I love to talk about, it didn’t really feel like a speech,” Kumar said. She believes that overall, the competition “gives students a platform to share important messages” and “lets students get to know their peers better.”

Wang spoke about her experiences with representation in children’s literature and how we can work to promote inclusivity: “I read a lot of books when I was young and looked up to characters that looked completely unlike me. It led to this perception of myself and my ethnicity that was skewed.” Wang believes that the most meaningful aspect of the speaking competition is not “just talking” about a topic that students feel passionate about but rather “the thinking that comes before it.” On the self-reflective nature of the competition, Wang continued, “When you’re forced to come up with something to argue about, you start digging through your life. You look through things that are important to you, and you organize your experiences into coherent thoughts.”

Like most students, Chou performed her classroom speech for the quarterfinal round. The speech served as a component of the final exam for the Science and Literature course, reflecting on human consciousness. On how the speaking competition enhanced the class’s learning, Chou said, “I was able to draw together all the readings throughout the term and share things from outside class. Even though we were answering the same question, we all had different takes and built on the classroom material.”

As a V Former who has competed all four years, Chou believes that the speaking competition has helped her strengthen her public speaking skills: “I like to look back on the speaking competition every year and see that I’ve grown a bit. Freshman year, I was shaking as I stood in front of my 12-person class. This year, I felt more calm going into it.” The quarterfinal rounds of the annual Woodrow Wilson Public Speaking Competition were held this past Tuesday and Wednesday in the Woods Memorial Hall classrooms. Judges selected 14 semifinalists this year: Awo Addo ’23, Kelsie Choi ’22, Elyssa Chou ’20, Zach Finnachio ’21, Caitlin Gu ’21, Stephanie Kim ’21, Deven Kinney ’20, Anjali Kumar ’21, Alex Liang ’21, Jack Patel ’23, Summer Qureshi ’22, Tesia Thomas ’22, Chelsea Wang ’21, and Michael Zhang ’21.

Students who participated in the quarterfinals were voted by their peers and English teachers to move on from the initial round after giving the best speech in their respective English classes. Ultimately, five finalists will speak at school meeting to determine the winner of the speaking competition.

The Woodrow Wilson Public Speaking Competition began about 25 years ago when former School Head Master Josiah Bunting voiced that “public speaking was an important and overlooked part of a Lawrentian’s education and story,” according to the coordinator of the speaking competition, Chair of the English Department Miranda Christoffersen P’14’18. Over its history, the competition has evolved: “In the first couple of years, the School really had to work on getting kids to buy into it. They did not want to do it, and it was not normal in their experience… Now it’s something every student does,” Christoffersen said.

While the competition initially begins in English classes for each student, Christoffersen believes that it is a “school wide project,” as judges come from every department. The reason that the speaking competition seems to be “housed in the English Department” originated from a logistical basis, as the only department in which every student took a course was English. Soon, this initial round in an English classes became tradition.

On the importance of the competition to student growth, Christoffersen said, “In almost every part of your life, there is a need to… stand up and speak to people and hold their attention.” From her perspective, “the most interesting speeches are the ones that are partly personal, but go beyond just telling a personal story—they have an argument to make… and sometimes there’s a little bit of a switch or a twist.” Opening her speech by singing Mama Mia!’s “Thank You for the Music,” Kumar’s speech focused on the wellness benefits of singing. “I was a little nervous at first, but since it is something I love to talk about, it didn’t really feel like a speech,” Kumar said. She believes that overall, the competition “gives students a platform to share important messages” and “lets students get to know their peers better.”

Wang spoke about her experiences with representation in children’s literature and how we can work to promote inclusivity: “I read a lot of books when I was young and looked up to characters that looked completely unlike me. It led to this perception of myself and my ethnicity that was skewed.” Wang believes that the most meaningful aspect of the speaking competition is not “just talking” about a topic that students feel passionate about but rather “the thinking that comes before it.” On the self-reflective nature of the competition, Wang continued, “When you’re forced to come up with something to argue about, you start digging through your life. You look through things that are important to you, and you organize your experiences into coherent thoughts.”

Like most students, Chou performed her classroom speech for the quarterfinal round. The speech served as a component of the final exam for the Science and Literature course, reflecting on human consciousness. On how the speaking competition enhanced the class’s learning, Chou said, “I was able to draw together all the readings throughout the term and share things from outside class. Even though we were answering the same question, we all had different takes and built on the classroom material.”

As a V Former who has competed all four years, Chou believes that the speaking competition has helped her strengthen her public speaking skills: “I like to look back on the speaking competition every year and see that I’ve grown a bit. Freshman year, I was shaking as I stood in front of my 12-person class. This year, I felt more calm going into it.”

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