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Youth excellence shines at 4-H public speaking contest

contest participants pose by signs

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. –  4-H excels in preparing youth to speak well and confidently, and it is a skill that serves members for a lifetime. Youth from across the state recently came together to put their public speaking skills to the test during the Illinois 4-H State Public Speaking Contest held at Parkland College on April 29.

Youth who participate in this yearly exhibit develop skills for communicating real-life issues to live audiences and receive professional and peer feedback. Youth ages 8-18 can participate in the contest and gain skills in learning how to organize and prepare a speech, developing speech delivery skills, and learning how to present themselves in front of an audience.

“This contest is so important because it helps develop and strengthen youths’ abilities and confidence to speak in front of people,” says Katie Duitsman, University of Illinois 4-H youth development specialist.

In the Formal Speech Division, youth share their perspective on a topic of their choice with a speech intended to motivate, persuade, or inform an audience.  

In the Formal Beginner category, Disha Rai of McLean County placed first, Claire Huang of McDonough County placed second, and Grace Ziegler of Peoria County placed third. Honorable Mention went to Paisley Stanford of Marion County.

In the Formal Advanced category Rachel Lands of Saline County placed first, Dinah Slusser of Jersey County placed second, and Peyton Garrard of Effingham County placed third.

In the Illustrated Division, speeches may inform, persuade, or motivate the audience with the use of a visual aid and may include audience participation.

In the Illustrated Beginner category Abigail Johnson of Knox County placed first, Braelyn Crouch of Clark County placed second, and Zach Shelton of Shelby County placed third.

In the Illustrated Advanced category, Claire Campbell of McLean County placed first, Kuyler Miller of Coles County placed second, and Tara Gutzmer of McHenry County placed third.

In the Oral Interpretation Division, presentations must be previously published works or manuscripts with youth competing individually and in teams. 

In the Oral Interpretation Individual category, Bethany Priaulx of Rock Island County placed first, Eden Sanborn of Champaign County placed second, and Hannah Priaulx of Rock Island County placed third.

In the Oral Interpretation Team category, Charlotte Judd and Cameron Wilmert of Logan County placed first, Asher Herrmann and Shiloh Herrmann of Peoria County placed second, and Chris Smith and Gracie Smith of Grundy County placed third.

In the Original Works Division, presentations must be published works, and manuscripts or transcripts. 

In the Original Works Individual category, Jenna Hubbard of Kane County placed first, Brennan Shoemaker of Jersey County placed second, and Callysta Borders of Union County placed third.

In the Original Works Team category, Jocelyn Erickson and Jasmine Frerkes of Mercer County took first place.

Public speaking is an important part of the overall 4-H experience. Throughout the year, 4-H members give talks and demonstrations at community club meetings and share information about the skills they learned in a project while receiving feedback in a supportive environment. Every 4-H member is also encouraged to give at least one formal presentation during a club meeting each year. 

“Youth might start out practicing their skill at a meeting, and then grow to compete at the state level,” says Duitsman. “It’s exciting to see that growth and know that youth will use these skills throughout their lifetime.”

COMPEER Financial provided financial support for this program.

SOURCE: Katie Duitsman, 4-H Youth Development Specialist,

WRITERCarissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office,

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.