Speak Up: Public speaking teams step up to the virtual podium

Hafsa Rahman, staff writer

Public speaking teams at South including speech team, Model United Nations (MUN), and Business Professionals of America (BPA) have made adjustments this year to better fit Covid-19 restrictions. Principal Dr. Lauren Fagel commended these teams for pivoting their club’s format to better fit Covid-19 restrictions and continue their experience.

“Participating in a speech team builds confidence in public speaking,” Fagel said. “I know how valuable the experience is. I am so proud of our teams for how they quickly adapted to the virtual environments.”

Despite many of MUN’s conferences and meetings being held virtually this season, the backbone of the club has remained the same, MUN advisor Jesse Sisler said. She explained that students continue to research, write and debate, however, the informal aspects of MUN, such as building relationships, have been difficult to achieve.

“The networking aspect [and] interpersonal relationships are tougher to [have because] they don’t occur as organically,” Sisler said. “The nature of not being able to travel and not being able to go to other schools is tough but we’re definitely happy [with] what we have been able to do.”

One of many important moments for MUN this year was SouthMun, one of their in-house and in-person conferences, MUN co-advisor Tom Kahle said.

“I really enjoyed our small, in-person conferences at South,” Kahle said. “I enjoyed that everyone came with a great attitude and just wanted to compete, even if it was with people they’re used to seeing all the time.”

MUN Board Members have faced challenges keeping the club fun and engaging virtually, junior Saanya Shah, MUN publicity chairman, said. Undeterred, club members continuously attend meetings and put their best foot forward, Shah explained.

“The Board is really happy that we have such a great group of kids who really want to do their best [and] continue to improve,” Shah said.

BPA has also seen their typical competition format affected by the pandemic. This year, the state competition was held virtually, from Feb. 21 to Feb. 26, through a program called Webex, Rosanna McManamon, BPA chapter advisor and State Leadership director said.

Sophomore BPA member Ashiyana Chikani said club members have adapted to the new format.

“Everyone has adjusted really well to the new format especially because it was so new and no one really knew all the details about it,” Chikani said.

Philanthropy and participation are essential parts of BPA, however, service projects have come to a pause due to Covid-19 restrictions, McManamon said.

“We love to contribute to the Smile Train, Cancer Society and whatever organizations that [members] want to support any given year,” McManamon said. “[But] we can’t do a lot of service projects right now.”

For the Speech Team, Covid-19 has had the biggest impact on the team’s preparation and performance Nancy Stickels, head Speech Team coach, said.

“It’s always a challenge to do [meetings] over Zoom,” Stickels said. “We’ve had a hard time with movement [because] they only have this small Zoom box to move in so it’s a little different than performing in front of a classroom for an audience, which is what they’re usually used to.”

Despite these changes, the speech team experienced a special moment when Varsity member junior Clara Wawrzyn qualified for the state competition on Feb. 20, Stickels said.

“[She] qualified for informative speaking, which is a huge accomplishment,” Stickels said.

Wawrzyn explained her experience at the competition and the overwhelming support she received from her team and coaches as they cheered her on.

“One of my teammates made a video that compiled other speech team members giving me words of encouragement, and it made me so grateful for being on such an amazing and supportive team,” Wawrzyn said.