Leadership Program

Seventh Graders Dream Up Inspiring Speeches

The Steward School
A real-life lesson in public speaking
Public speaking is a skill that Spartans of all ages learn. For example, our youngest students take the stage in the Lora M. Robins Theatre for Lower School Oratorical, a Steward tradition designed to help students gain confidence in a supportive environment. Throughout their years at Steward, all students have opportunities to share their thoughts in front of an audience, and they cap off their tenure with another tradition: senior speeches.

Writing for an Audience 
Seventh graders in Middle School English Teacher Mary Hopkins’ class recently had an opportunity to sharpen their public-speaking skills after reading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and writing and delivering their own “dream” speeches. 

“This semester we have been discussing themes of freedom and the importance of speaking up when observing an injustice,” said Ms. Hopkins, who provided students with the key elements of a solid speech: passion, research, writing, a clear directive of how classmates could take action, and delivery. She added, “We practiced techniques to make our spoken words more effective — repetition, imagery, connecting directly with the audience, and using humor, for example.”

After all the seventh graders delivered their speeches in class, Ms. Hopkins chose five of them to share their speeches during a recent Community Time gathering. 

Gaining Confidence
Inside the Dining Commons, a podium, microphone, and several hundred enthusiastic Middle Schoolers made for a lively environment … our Spartan speakers were ready! Holden Teague ’29 kicked things off with a humorous take on Stanley water bottles – pricey drinkware that is ubiquitous, especially with young people. 

“I have gathered all of you here today to talk about an item that has been taking over the Middle School faster than anything we have seen before … the one and only… Stanley!” said Holden. “I would like to address how they are simply unnecessary. The sheer size of them is a nuisance. They are huge!” Holden’s opening statement elicited a round of applause and lots of cheers. 

Reflecting on the assignment, Holden said later, “I felt excited to give my speech. I surprised myself with how comfortable I felt.” 

In her speech, Faith Akinfolajimi ’29 spoke about the culturally enriching nature of travel. She spent three weeks last summer in Ghana, West Africa with her family — an experience that had a profound effect on her. 

“I can easily say that it wasn’t anything I was expecting,” she told the audience. “Thinking you know about what a place is like is different from actually getting the chance to be there, to see everything and everyone face to face. I want to inspire you to find your connection. I’m not expecting you to travel during every break, but embrace the idea of going to new places.”

Kara Freed ’29, who plays basketball, field hockey, and lacrosse, delivered a speech about the inequity that is often seen between men’s and women’s sports. 

“I was a little nervous at first, but when I started speaking all of the fear flew away!” said Kara. “My comfort level is a lot better since the first time I gave a speech.” Good communication skills, she added, “are important for my future because when I need to interview for a job or give a presentation, I will be prepared.” In her speech, Kara said, “Women athletes should have all of the rights that men athletes have, and they should also be treated the same and taken as seriously. Women work just as hard and are capable of doing the same things as men.”

Lifelong Skills 
“Speaking up about a topic about which they feel strongly is a skill I hope students will carry with them into the future,” said Ms. Hopkins. “I am always amazed by my students’ ability to speak in front of a group of their peers,” she said. “I think it demonstrates the comfort level they feel at Steward and the trust they place in their classmates.”

View the Steward Snaps from Grade 7 speeches. 

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