Youth in public speaking contest learn skills that last a lifetime

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 30.

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.

“I like public speaking because it combines two of my favorite things in the world: creative writing and public speaking,” says second-time participant Molly Dittmer of Lake County who took first place in the Original Works Individual Division. “That’s what I do, I put both of those into one and I get to have a lot of fun, meet new people, and get new experiences.”

"youth holding a sign titled 'reasons to wear lip gloss'

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 Speech Beginner Division, first place went to Paisley Stanford of Marion County; second place went to Emma Moore of Winnebago County; and third place went to Wyatt Hays of Morgan County

In the Formal Speech Advanced Division, 1st place went to Abigail Patrick of Marion County; second place went to Kristin Partlow of Shelby County; and third place went to Dina Slusser of Jersey County.

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 Division, first place went to Zach Shelton of Shelby County; second place went to Arianna Johnson of Madison County; and third place went to Cecilia Higdon of Winnebago County.

In the Illustrated Advanced Division, first place went to Savana Ford of Morgan County; second place went to Addison Gjelsten of Lake County; and third place went to Tara Gutzmer of McHenry County.

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 Division, first place went to Michelle Marck of Stephenson County; second place went to Marcus Ray of McHenry County; and third place went to Jacob Truhlar of Grundy County.

In the Oral Interpretation Teams Division, first place went to Avery Glacinski and Mya Krugger of Woodford County; second place went to Allison O’Neil and Samantha O’Neil of Menard County; and third place went to Lola Reed and Daphne Slusser of Jersey County.

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

In the Original Works Individual Division, first place went to Molly Dittmer of Lake County; second place went to Aleah Martin of Peoria County; and third place went to Gracie Prose of Ogle County

In the Original Works Team Division, first place went to Olivia Truhlar and Simon Truhlar of Grundy County; and second place went to Betsy Jones and Haven Pierson of Bureau County.

youth in a stovepipe hat performs a speech

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. 

“Over the course of a couple of months, I started changing my personality and getting more comfortable with public speaking.” says first-time participant Marcus Ray of McHenry County who took second place in the Oral Interpretation Individual Division. “My favorite part of the competition is definitely seeing the judges just fall out of their chair and seeing them loving my poem. I’m very proud of it.”

COMPEER Financial provided financial support for this program.

SOURCE: Cindy Ogwal, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, cowusu@illinois.edu

WRITER:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office, carissa7@illinois.edu

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.