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The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School

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The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School

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ELD students take on FUHSD speech contest

ELD speech participants have dinner together before the FUHSD speech contest. Photo used with Permission from Emily Hong

Scribbling notes, interviewing people around the community and reflecting on moving personal experiences. This was how sophomore Hafsa Gunes and freshman Lino Longtin prepared for the annual FUHSD speech contest, where English Language Development students from all schools in the district harness their strengths in the English Language to create meaningful presentations showcasing what they have learned. 

The English Language Learner program aims to help non-fluent speakers progress toward mastery of English as a second language. Specifically, the curriculum is designed to enhance students’ literacy and comprehension of English and facilitate their transition into mainstream courses. As part of the ELD program, the English Learner speech contest was initiated by program director Welton Kwong in 2007 to help students improve their speaking skills, and has only grown ever since. The contest requires participants to present a 3- to 5-minute memorized speech on a topic of their choice in either the Persuasive or Informative category. A variety of student, teacher and community judges then select the top speakers to advance to a final round, where the top three in each group are chosen. While usually 25 percent of Lynbrook participants make it to the final round every year, a record-breaking 60 percent qualified from Lynbrook this year. 

“Beyond these honors, I loved that the participants in my class and I created a memory together, in which their endless support and respect for one another was more clear than ever before,” ELD teacher Julie Morelos said. “I’ve always had a team mentality, and I was so lucky to get to be the leader of this team of ELD students this year. Seeing them smile, fist bump, high five, and embrace each other was the biggest reward of all.”

Sophomore Hafsa Gunes found herself speaking about a topic she was deeply connected to: Islam. Gunes aimed to use her speech to raise awareness about Islam, which she feels can be underrepresented in the United States.

“I was really surprised how not many people talk about their religion in the United States, so that’s what inspired me to speak about a religious topic,” Gunes said. 

Meanwhile, freshman Lino Longtin’s interests in the physical and chemical traits of foods led her to explore the different flavors and nutrient values in foods and how they affect the body.

“I was tasting artificial foods, and it felt different than the organic ones,” Longtin said. “I started to question what was in the artificial foods that made the difference.”

With distinctly personal ties to their topics, the two competitors explored various research processes to collect more information. Using her cultural connection to Islam, Gunes extended her knowledge by interviewing different members of the Turkish community. Meanwhile, Longtin relied on experiments with food, taste-testing organic and artificial foods. Through various creative approaches, Longtin and Gunes were able to gain a deeper understanding of their topics, which ultimately helped them deliver strong presentations. 

Nevertheless, both Longtin and Gunes admit that they felt a rush of nervousness when it was their time to speak.

“For me, I normally don’t find it too hard to talk in front of a large group of people,” Gunes said. “However, the feeling of nervousness did catch up with me during the first round.” 

As the presentation went on, Longtin and Gunes found that their initial feelings of uneasiness were soon replaced with joy, as they skillfully presented their unique research to a captivated audience. The pair also enjoyed watching other contestants give their presentations as it allowed them to observe public speaking skills from their peers.

“I saw lots of uses of body language by other contestants, which I would love to try out in the future,” Longtin said. 

Throughout their journey, both contestants were thankful for the help they received from Morelos, who offered valuable one-on-one feedback on their speeches and provided useful research avenues.

“I may have felt more nervous than the students did about the competition as a whole, being that it was my first time preparing students for it,” Morelos said. “Like them, I did not know entirely what to expect and wanted to do all that I could to  be sure they all had a positive experience and felt well-prepared.”

 Through the combined effort of teacher support and individual persistence, the ELD students turned obstacles into learning opportunities, delving deeper into intriguing realms of food science and culture. The students’ hard work paid off as they achieved top awards at the FUHSD speech contest, and they now feel more prepared to tackle a variety of writing and speaking tasks in the future.

“Attending the speech contest was no doubt the highlight of this school year for me,” Morelos said. “I felt so proud of them all. Watching them courageously and successfully do something they may not have believed they could do at the onset of the school year was a really rewarding experience.”

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Taek Kim
Taek Kim, Staffer
(he/him) Taek is currently a junior and is very stoked to be a first-year staffer on the Epic for 2023-24! Aside from journalism, Taek enjoys listening to jazz, yapping about politics, and playing cello during his free time.
Meadow Shen
Meadow Shen, Staffer
(she/her) Meadow is a junior and first-year staffer at the Epic! In her free time, she enjoys playing piano, hiking, and reading. She also loves to bake and visit new cafes.

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