Speech contest brings heartfelt stories

By Paula Vasquez

Staff Writer



The Speech Department, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Communications Division hosted The Seventh Annual Speech Contest held Nov. 6 at Brookhaven College. The interest in the contest was evident from the full audience of more than 150 people, some standing or sitting against the walls.

The theme of the speech contest this year was “your choices, your journey” and was based on the Open Book Project common reader “The Other Wes Moore.” The book is about two men with the same name, same background and same environment who arrive at completely different destinations in their lives because of the choices they make. To symbolize the importance of choices, the contest used the book’s message to encourage the contestants to share their own decisions for promising futures made during different times.

The contest has been traditionally held during the fall semester. Entry was previously open only to speech students who had not been past winners. It was not until 2010, when PTK joined in as cosponsor, that all Brookhaven students were allowed to compete. Sheri Van Court, ESOL professor and PTK adviser, said she really appreciates the Speech Department for involving PTK in the contest because “it is one of the highlights of our organization.” Van Court supports the contest because it “brings competition that prepares students for real life situations in a healthy way.”

The involvement and partner- ship from PTK also assisted in providing the funds for the awards this fall: $300 for first place, $200 for second place, and $100 for third place. The contest included 10 Brookhaven students, who anxiously prepared to give their informative speeches from five to eight minutes long.

Each speech was accompanied with a PowerPoint presentation displayed on large projector screens behind the contestants as they presented their speeches.

The judges evaluating the contest were communications faculty Leslie Jackson, Karl Krayer and Andy Mangum. They looked for attention-getters that aroused interest, expressive gestures and movements that showed confidence and a professional appearance, with no grammar errors.

The contestants were, in order of speech delivery: Bruna Fonseca, Tom Newsted, Martha Gans, Tiffany L. Chubb, Kathy Ayun, Michelle Driver, Kalvis Miles, Samual Omoregie, Dalia Eugenia Marin, and Maddox Price. Kendra Vaglienti, executive dean for the Communications Division, timed each speech.

Dr. Cheryl Dyer Vargas, speech professor, was in charge of organizing the contest, but said she couldn’t have done it without help from the Speech Department, PTK and the Communications Division. Vargas also said she was especially happy with the contest because in the past, they had only combined involvement with the Government Department, and this fall they were able to “spread it not to just one department, but also partner with the English Department and the Journalism Department.”

Vargas said the contest is good for participating students, allowing them to learn techniques about public speaking.

Delryn Fleming, professor of English and speech communications, said Vargas schedules time with the students to practice their presentations. “She puts in a lot of hours coaching the students,” Fleming said.

She added that the votes are always really close, and the student who wins a place is “one who puts in time, energy and thought into it.” She also said it is important for contestants to be aware of and able to relate to the audience.

Kent Polk, speech professor, had two contestants participate this fall and said there was one year out of the seven annual contests he was not involved, but he does all he can to encourage his students to participate every year by awarding extra credit.

Once the event started, the contestants lined up at the door and Ceikhou Diallo, president of PTK, served as the moderator. Driver’s third place speech, “Our Miraculous Comeback,” touched on the topic of an affair that almost ruined her relationship.

Driver said her dreams were crushed once she knew of the situation, and although it was hard, she learned a lot from it. “Reconciliation showed me what hope really is,” she said.

The event was a turning point in her life and the decisions Driver made were to stay in her marriage, work on herself and to go back to college. These choices led her to get an education so that she will be able to help other couples through similar circumstances in the future.

Miles’ first place speech, “Decision Making,” talked about where he once lived, “a rat’s house, older than my grandparents.” Miles said this is what encouraged him to gain a better future for himself and his son. He decided to get closer to his goal by joining the Marine Corps, and began to think about his choices before making them and plan ahead for his retirement.

Marin won second place in the contest with her speech, “The Ride of My Life.” Her speech included the story of the limited life she had as a Guatemalan girl restricted by the norms and traditions that ruled her culture.

Marin said the three decisions she made to get out of those restrictions were to think outside the box, pursue a relationship with a Christian woman who she called “Mima” and to come to the U.S. to get an education.

At the end of the contest, the awards were given, and all contestants were thanked by the judges for participating. After collecting his certificate, Miles said he was excited about winning first place, because he said he worked hard: “I went to bed around 3 a.m. practicing.”