The Benefits of Speech Contests

The first time I ever entered a speech contest, my motivation was less than perfect. My English teacher offered extra credit, and the boy I had a crush on was competing. However, when I walked up to the podium, all the nervous butterflies flew away. It felt like I was looking into the soul of the audience. Almost inexplicably, I could see myself in their eyes. Not only that, but I saw them. I saw right into the core of who they were. I don’t remember that speech. I just remember stepping off the stage and praying I would win, not for the scholarship money, but so I could speak again.

Now, five years later, the shine hasn’t worn off yet. I’m finishing up my last year in the high school speech contest circuit, and each one is more nerve-wracking than the next. Every time I speak, I know if I lose the contest it may be my last time. When I make it through to the next level, there’s less excitement and more relief.

It’s scary to think about my last speech, terrifying to imagine the end of a half-decade of work. But, it’s also gratifying to look back on the people I’ve met and the memories I’ve made.

One was traveling to Visalia for the Lion’s speech contest and playing in the duck pond; driving to Bakersfield at three in the morning for the Optimist Contest; and running around Post 43 of the American Legion, amazed at all the memorabilia. These contests have been some of the most rewarding parts of my life. I’ve won tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money. I’ve made dozens of friends. And, when I finally give my last speech, I’ll leave the stage knowing I’ve connected with many people around the world.

And to think, it all started from some extra credit and a boy!

By Julia Abbott. Julia is a local high school senior who has been writing for us since she was ten years old.

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