FUHSD English Learner Speech Contest celebrates 10 years

Jessica Li

On May 11, Fremont High School hosted the tenth annual English Learner (EL) Speech Contest, which is aimed toward helping English Language Development (ELD) students improve their language and oratory skills. Out of the 325 English Learner students from FUHSD who competed, several Lynbrook ELD students won awards and placed as finalists. Many Lynbrook juniors and seniors also served as judges for the competition.

The EL Speech Contest, founded by FUHSD EL program coordinator Welton Kwong in 2007, was originally created to challenge non-native English speakers. Students are expected to prepare and deliver a three-to-five minute speech on any topic in either the persuasive or informative categories, accompanied by an optional visual aid such as pictures or posters.

“I wanted to think of ways to allow students to demonstrate how much English they had actually acquired in a short time with us in the district,” said Kwong. “I wanted students to remember the Speech Contest as an event where they would experience success because they had to put a whole lot of work into it.”

Top-performing students are selected to advance to the final round after two preliminary rounds of speeches are delivered in front of judges comprised of nearly 150 district board members, administrators, teachers, parents and students. In the final round, students are split up into groups of eight according to their speech category, from which the first, second and third place winners are chosen.

Junior Reo Saito, who served as a judge this year, was an EL student and participant in the speech contest herself during her freshman year.

“Even though I was a candidate in freshman year, I don’t think I could have made a speech of that quality right now,” said Saito. “I think [that’s why the contest] is super important, because EL students don’t have a lot of opportunities to speak in public except for this contest.”

From Lynbrook, sophomore Starr Gong won second place and junior Katherine Kim won third place in their respective speech groups. Several ELD students also advanced to the final round. From ELD 2, sophomore Mindy Hsieh, senior Ayumi Takase and freshman Haruya Takase placed as finalists. From ELD 3, freshman Kevin Yang, junior Brian Liu, junior Winona Kang and freshman Jewel Yang also placed.

All Lynbrook ELD students are expected to compete in this contest. From peer and teacher editing to memorizing speeches and presenting them in front of the class, each participant prepared for weeks prior to competing to present the products of their hard work on contest day.

“I think that I’ve grown a lot since the past year since I got seventh place last year, and this year I showed a lot more improvement in the results,” said Kim, who discussed ways to successfully maintain a diet. “I still felt really nervous and I forgot all of the things I had to say, so I had to make up some stuff on the spot.”

At the end of the contest, an awards ceremony is held to honor the students’ perseverance. As each winner’s name and school was called out, they were all greeted with loud applause and cheering from their friends and classmates as they walked to the stage to receive their trophies.

As for the future of the contest, Kwong hopes to keep providing invaluable experiences for ELD students by continuing on the contest for years to come.