H-F speech winners
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Duo takes state’s top honors, H-F places fifth at speech competition


An outstanding duo representing Homewood-Flossmoor High School won first place in the dramatic duet acting category of the IHSA State Speech Tournament Feb. 20 and 21.

H-F’s team won fifth place overall at the tournament.

Homewood-Flossmoor High seniors Adeera Harris, left, and Star Hollis took first place in the dramatic duet acting category at speech regional and sectional competitions to win the right to advance to the IHSA speech tournament Feb. 20 and 21 where the pair again placed first.

Seniors Adeera Harris and Star Hollis brought home top honors after performing “Final Placement,” an eight-minute dramatic presentation that relates strong conflict. The students presented a slice of the nearly 30-minute play by Ara Watson. It relates a discussion between a social worker and a mother, guilty of child abuse, who is trying to win back custody of her child. Through the moving dialog, the audience learns the mother has been abused by her boyfriend, and the social worker makes it known that she is intending to protect the child no matter the cost, according to Janine Stroemer, H-F teacher and speech team coach.

Adeera and Star are students in Stroemer’s speech class. The teacher paired them as duet partners this year. “Final Placement” was their first project. Then they switched to a different story, but after several months they asked Stroemer if they could go back to “Final Placement” because it presented greater challenges.

They won in the dramatic duet acting competition performing “Final Placement” at both the IHSA Regionals and Sectionals qualifying them for state competition.

The winning pair also brought home individual honors at state. Star won third place in prose reading, and Adeera won fourth place in dramatic interpretation.

Other H-F team winners at the state competition, who advanced from sectionals, were:

  • Nia Smith, oratorical declamation, fourth place.
  • Vicky Olaleye, poetry reading, fifth place.
  • Avery Calhoon, Destiny Garner, Ronald Gerring, Kobe Gosha, Aaron McIntyre, Jazmin Rhodes, Zosha Schal, Alexander Wallace and Jayla Watts, performance in the round of “The Song That Brought Back Spring,” fifth place.
  • Kiernan Hanley, extemporaneous speaking, sixth place.
  • Morgan Barber, informative speaking, ninth place.
  • Siara Carpenter, original oratory, eleventh place.

Selections for state were based on students who placed in first, second or third place at the sectional competition at Reavis High School. H-F’s team had four first place, two second place and two third place honors to advance to state competition. Other H-F team members competing at sectionals were Layla LaNier, Carrington Valentine, Caroline Bivens and Natalie Elfner.

Stroemer said of her 15 years as coach, this was probably the most difficult because she couldn’t work directly with students.  The Illinois High School Association ran a full season of speech competitions from October through February, so H-F students started work in August. Stroemer worked with returning speech team members and tried to recruit new members. 

Stroemer said she previously was able to get new members after they watched the speech showcase, a presentation by speech members performing segments of their work. But there was no showcase in spring 2020, so Stroemer was trying to recruit via Zoom, and then coach via the internet.

“It was much more difficult than we imagined. So these team members should get a huge pat on the back for their resilience and their perseverance,” the coach said.  

Stroemer had coaching assistance from teachers and staff members Prince Lowe, Lauren Wells-Mann, Kanoa Mulling, Maureen Kelly, Elizabeth Wallace, Alesha Williams, with assistance from alumnus Allen Reynolds, long-time assistant Angela Rich and Javon Smith, a former speech coach at Thornwood High School.

Stroemer is hoping the 2021-22 school year has students returning to H-F. Every student who competed this year will be graduating, and she would love to have a chance to work with a new group of students who will continue H-F’s tradition. In the 15 years she has coached, H-F has had students in state competition 14 years.

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