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By Joyce Libby
Heart racing, hands shaking. You approach the podium, praying you will remember what to say. This is the plight for many who have anxiety about speaking in public.
It’s also why I find it extremely inspiring that every year, teenagers from Harrisburg and SciTech High Schools step out of their comfort zone to participate in Rotary Club’s Four Way Test Speech Contest. As the contest’s committee chair, I have a front row seat to witness the students’ growth, collaborate with outstanding teachers, and actively support the future leaders of our community.
The Four Way Test Speech contest invites area high school students to speak on a topic about which they are passionate, applying Rotary’s Four Way Test. Scored on content and delivery, students can win cash prizes ranging from $300 – $1,500 as they advance in the local, mid, and district level competitions.
“This competition has truly changed me,” said this year’s club and mid-level winner, Shai Ann Riley, “I am grateful for the people that it has let into my life and the opportunities that it has given me.” The Harrisburg senior spoke on Minority Abuse, a topic that had been floating around in her head for quite some time. She mentioned the contest gave her the opportunity to effectively share her ideas with the world. Shai Ann continues to practice her speech. She will be competing at the district- level competition this May.
Shai Ann isn’t the only one who sees the benefits of the competition. During Rotary’s annual pancake breakfast held at Harrisburg High School, I spoke to 2014 club-level winner Jose Vega. “The speech competition helped me to be comfortable speaking in front of my peers as I ran for homecoming king, and as you can see, I won,” he said.
Other students found value in the mentoring process. SciTech senior Joshua Ramirez, a two-time participant who won at the club-level in 2015, appreciated the personal guidance he received from teachers and volunteers. Hoang Le, a sophomore at SciTech, called his experience eye-opening. “Though I have made some strides, I need to progress further to become a speaker and contributor to my community. That is the point of the competition,” he said.
I am proud to work with dedicated teachers like Bernadette Schaufert and Maureen Dunbar of Harrisburg High, and Corinna Spangler of SciTech High School. Their work is central to the success of the students and to the program as a whole. With their leadership, students continue to succeed, realizing they can achieve anything if they do the work.
The committee and community volunteers find value in the experience as well. Harrisburg Area Community College John “Ski” Sygielski noted, “The student speakers were thoughtful, articulate and focused in taking Rotary’s principles and applying them to substantive current issues. Without a doubt, after listening to each of them, our local, regional and national futures are bright.”
I witnessed firsthand the incredible growth of all the participants, and believe the educators see the benefits, too. Just ask Harrisburg High School Assistant Principal, Amanda Pressley, who attended the mid-level competition to witness Shai Ann’s win. I believe she had a tear in her eye.
For me, Rotary is an avenue to serve my local community and support the education of Harrisburg’s youth through the Four-Way Test Speech Contest. On behalf of the entire Rotary Club of Harrisburg, please consider joining us to see how you can help make a difference. Through Rotary, you will find that the opportunities to support your community are endless; and when we work together, so are the rewards.
Joyce Libby is a Principal, Wealth Manager for EHD Advisory. Joyce serves as a board member for the Rotary Club of Harrisburg and the chair of the Four Way Speech Contest Committee.