Police Reports: Feb. 17, 2015

H-F speech team sectional finalists Edwyn Mitchell, top
left, and Michael Ruiz, top right, and, bottom from
left, Marlene Slaughter, Maya Nakamura, Aliaa Eldabi 
and DeJanee Callahan.
(Provided photo)

Speaking is a natural; it’s something each of us does every day.

But to speak before judges, to present a speech before an audience, to make it stand out from your peers — that’s what speech competition is all about and the students at Homewood-Flossmoor High School have gotten very good at it.

Janine Stroemer

This school year, three students qualified for Illinois High School Association’s speech competition placing them in the top 2 percent of the 700 student competitors that represented 75 high schools across Illinois. Senior Edwyn Mitchell placed sixth in Original Oratory; senior Marlene Slaughter placed seventh in Humorous Interpretation; and junior Michael Ruiz placed 12th in Radio Speaking.

To get there, the 88 students on the H-F speech team started practicing the first full week of school. That group was whittled down to 66 who entered competition, explained Janine Stroemer, H-F’s English II teacher and head speech coach who works with seven assistant speech coaches. The work is very intense for coaches because students are seen individually or in small groups.

Students compete in one of 15 categories — Dramatic Duet Acting, Dramatic Interpretation, Extemporaneous Speaking, Humorous Duet Acting, Humorous Interpretation, Informative Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Oratorical Declamation, Original Comedy, Original Oratory, Performance in the Round, Poetry Reading, Prose Reading, Radio Speaking and Special Occasion Speaking.

“We’re looking for skill sets rather than talent,” Stroemer said.  “We might look at a student and say ‘Wow, you have this really good comic timing’ and see what we can do to help capitalize on that skill. And then there are the life skills: confidence, how you hold yourself, can you speak clearly and articulate and can you prepare for a very diverse audience.”

Stroemer pushes the after school training regime to an intense level right from the first because of “all the time that goes in to getting to know the student, selecting the event, teaching them the piece, cutting it down, practicing it.” She wants H-F competitors ready for the first invitational competition in October.

“Our students, especially the new kids, get a chance (at that invitational) to see what it’s like, because at that point it’s scary. If you’ve never done speech before, you get to put your feet in the water and then you’ve got to swim,” Stroemer said. 

Invitationals can involve as many as 450 students from suburban Chicago districts who compete between two and five times in a day, depending on whether they advance. After each round, a student gets a written assessment from the judges. 

Those comments help H-F coaches work with students to finesse their presentations for future tournaments.

By the end of November, the best students are competing in regional competitions. 

This year, H-F had first place team standing at the IHSA Regional Tournament and all its competitors advanced to sectionals. From sectionals, three H-F students were selected for state competition.

Stroemer is delighted that speech will be offered as an honors class next year giving speech team members a chance to earn credit for the time they put into their preparation.  

Speech competition is much more than diction.  These students are doing outstanding academic work. For example, sophomore Taylor Wicks, who competed in Original Comedy, had to write her own skit that had her develop and perform six or seven characters. 

“She has to follow the literary structure: rising action with a climax, introduction and conclusion. That’s one skills set as a writer.  As a performer, she has to be funny, write the jokes and interpret all that” vocally and physically, the teacher explained.

Competitors in Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking or Radio Speaking often are handed materials or given one of three topics from national or international events to expound on. Preparation requires lots of research. Stroemer has a box of information on current topics that students peruse throughout the week to stay current.

Stroemer admits winning in competition is special, but her work is really about helping young people learn about themselves. As speech program director the past 10 years, she’s watched many students overcome their fears, anxiety and doubt to become great presenters.

“I remember the young lady who struggled for two years and said, ‘I’m going to get it (anxieties) out of my system, I promise.’  To have her feel confident in the world, much more than when she came in: that to me is what a teacher lives for,” Stroemer said.

H-F Speech Team Competitors

  • Dramatic Duet Acting — Daj’za Mitchell and Marlene Slaughter, Aundria Lanier and Jessica Ashby, Rashun Carter and Jacob Rodriguez, Malik Sims and Marianna Galligani
  • Dramatic Interpretation — Jabari Khaliq, Breon Henley, Caroline Madden, Aundria Lanier, Gabi Bello
  • Extemporaneous Speaking — Kennedy Davis, Melissa Pizza, Malina Wordlaw
  • Humorous Duet Acting — Andre Thomas and Gianmarco Petrelli, Elaina Dague and Cooper Dague, Maggie Colton and Michael Ruiz, Joey Cipriano and Kennedy Chandler, Angelica Colon and Jillian Johnson
  • Humorous Interpretation — Marlene Slaughter, Maggie Colton, Malik Sims, Joey Cipriano
  • Informative Speaking — Andre Thomas, Terez Hobson, Marianna Galligani, Brielle Scullark
  • Impromptu Speaking — DeJanee Callahan, Allie Mangel
  • Oratorical Declamation — Maya Nakamura, Jabari Khaliq, Andre Thomas
  • Original Comedy — Taylor Wicks, Sydney DuBose, Jacob Rodriguez, Christina Kellum
  • Original Oratory — Edwyn Mitchell, Maya Nakamura, Anthony Davis, Jayla Lockett
  • Performance in the Round — Jacob Rodriguez, Jeremiah Lee, Joseph Cipriano, Kendra Fourte, Kenneth Bivens, Malina Wordlaw, Meera Patel, Rashun Carter, Sydney DuBose, Terri Calhoun, Lauren Torian
  • Poetry Reading — Daj’za Mitchell, Rashun Carter, Simone Williams
  • Prose Reading — Aliaa Ekdabli, Elaina Dague, Kennedy Davis, Meera Patel, Amber Simon
  • Radio Speaking — Michael Ruiz, Jade Groble, Kennedy Dames, Allie Mangel
  • Special Occasion Speaking — Taylor Wicks, Katria Muse, Tosa Oliogu

The speech team is supported by H-F teachers who serve as coaches: Janine Stroemer, head coach, with Aaron Sciford, Brie Hornback, Dawn Edwards, Jamie Gill, Matt Gallagher, Shelly Fields, Steve Guillermo and Warren Sampson.

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

Related story:
H-F speech team regional champions aiming for state honors (HF Chronicle, Feb. 12, 2015)


The 2014-2015 H-F High School speech team. (Provided photo)


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