Clinton High School will host thousand of young actors, singers and public speakers Saturday, as it hosts the Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA) Individual State contest.
More than 100 schools from across the region will send qualifying speech contest participants to CHS, each one vying for an invitation to the All-State Speech festival later this year.
Nancy Saoinz and Sarah Long, English and language arts teachers at CHS, coach the local team and helped organize the event. They estimate that this is Clinton’s first speech contest in over a decade.
Long said Saturday’s event, which begins at 8 a.m. and should wrap up around 5 p.m., will be the culmination of a surprising amount of work.
“We tried to get a lot of work done ahead of time,” she said. “But we find that there’s something we didn’t consider.”
Long and Saoinz had to coordinate locations and provisions for the visiting students, as well as organize a group of 75 judges and 50 volunteers. Scheduling for the 1,200 entries alone took two full days.
But the effort was worth it, they said, as Saturday will mark a significant milestone for a program that was virtually nonexistent four years ago.
When Long began teaching at CHS, she was tasked with reigniting the floundering program. Her first year, she was able to convince five students to participate in the contests. This year, that number has grown to 42.
The opportunity for personal growth is a draw for the students, Long said.
“Speech is about encouraging students to better themselves,” she said. “Judges focus on things to improve on ...but it’s constructive feedback.”
CHS senior Taylor Wiebers is one of two local students competing in the event. She is a veteran of the program, and has received an invitation to the All-State festival previously.
She said having the contest held locally will make the day less stressful. Two hallmarks of IHSSA speech contests, early morning travel and mad scrambles to locate performance and practice areas, will not be an issue.
“It will be a lot easier, preparation wise,” Wiebers said.
The contests, in which students compete for high rankings in categories like acting, improvisational acting, expository address, poetry and spontaneous speaking, are a good way to improve her craft, she said. Wiebers hopes to attend Drake University next year and pursue studies in musical theater.
Saoinz said that having the contest held locally is a good opportunity for the public to learn more about the benefits of speech. For a suggested $3 donation, area residents can come and view the competition.
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