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JM student becomes Rochester's first speech champion in four decades

JM student becomes Rochester's first speech champion in four decades

John Marshall's Ola Adebayo took first place in the poetry category at the 2017 AA State Speech Tournament, becoming the first state speech champion from Rochester Public Schools since 1976.

Ola's poetry interpretation, titled "No Child Left in Aid," was a complication of three poems: "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes, "Put the Financial Aid in the Bag" by Carvens Lissaint, and "No Child Left Behind" by Dominique Christina & Denice Frohman.

Her program focused on how students, specifically students of color, struggle with financing their college education and, in turn, completing their college education. You can watch the clip below to see Ola rehearsing her speech prior to the tournament. 

"What stood out about Ola's performance of these three poems was her passion about the topic," said Heather Lyke, an English teacher and speech coach at John Marshall. "How invested she was in the process, and how connected she was with the theme of the poems, really shone through in her interpretation of the works."

Lyke said many coaches and judges who had seen Ola perform approached her and fellow JM coach, Sandy Nieland, to tell them how Ola's poem had resonated with them.

"Becoming state champion in the category of poetry is exactly what a hard worker and critical thinker like Ola deserves," said Lyke.

Five students from JM's 57-member speech team participated in the state competition. In addition to Ola, Micaela Buda scored 8th in poetry and Alia Hezeil ranked 5th in discussion. Overall, the JM Speech Team — which also included students Zibby Trewartha-Weiner and Rebecca Frei — finished the tournament in 9th place.

Cover photo courtesy Rochester Public Schools

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