While a Friday free of classes may be the first thing that comes to mind when a Deerfield student thinks of the upcoming competition on campus, the International Independent School Public Speaking Competition will bring about 170 students and over 50 coaches from eight countries to campus. Starting October 1, this four-day public speaking contest will be the 28th annual competition and only the second time it has been hosted in the United States.
It is one of the largest independent-school public-speaking competition in the country, with “people coming from as far away as Jordan to participate and as far away as San Francisco to help judge,” said Coach of the Debate Team and Head of Steering Committee Michael O’Donnell.
Interest in attending has been so high that Deerfield has had to turn away at least ten schools from the competition. Many of the 46 participating schools are Canadian, and many are new to the event this year.
As always, the community will put its best foot forward in accommodating guests, “in the same way that Deerfield shines on second-visit days,” said Mr. O’Donnell. He has been impressed by the “number of people from our community who have stepped up above and beyond in order to ensure that this event will be a success.”
Well over a hundred Deerfield students and numerous alumni will be involved in the competition. Many of the alumni will judge, and the students will help run and organize events, time the presentations, and serve as spectators in each room.
Lydia Hemphill and Suzanne Manory have put great effort into the recruiting of judges and the housing process. International students will be housed by faculty, day students, and other families in the area, competitors from the ten U.S. schools will stay at nearby hotels.
Safety is Deerfield’s highest priority, especially because of the H1N1 threat.
All events will be conducted in English and will test students’ abilities to deliver speeches, act, debate, or “shoot from the hip and give an impromptu address,” said Joe Zych ’08, founder of Jordan’s King’s Academy team and coach along with Charlie Hopkins ’05. Mr. Zych warns that “We’re planning on bringing our A-game, so other schools beware!”
Deerfield is bringing its A-game as well, represented by Katie Walker ’10, Charles Giannini ’11, and Grace Mermel ’12. Mermel, like the rest, is used to public speaking as she was on her middle-school debate team. In fact, she has been practicing her “After-Dinner” speech throughout the summer and has her excerpt from The Glass Castle “pretty much memorized,” she said.
Deerfield’s friends at King’s Academy have been preparing equally hard. Their debate team was founded just last year when they joined the competition and heard they would be competing against Deerfield. Said Mr. Zych, “We’ve had our eyes on the prize the whole time.” Since news of the competition, many of King’s Academy’s students have been excited about getting involved.
Fakher El Fayez ’12 and Divij Mehra ’12 from King’s Academy may be new to public speaking, but they are “confident in ourselves and hope that we get to represent our school the best way we can,” said El Fayez. “More than anything, I’m looking forward to picking up experience and making new friends rather than winning,” said Mehra.
Deerfield is trying especially hard to accommodate and entertain international students since many of them have never been to The United States. There will be a cook-out, contra dancing, and a band. There will also be a lock-in-type event including dancing, swimming, and hanging out at Greer for both Deerfield and non-Deerfield students.
All rounds of the competition are open to the community, and students are encouraged to come to the finals on Sunday the 4. Mermel admitted to being nervous, but said, “It is kind of comforting to know all my peers and speakers.”